Lewis the Lion learns the etiquette of Maté drinking

Mate' pots and straws

One of the things that had struck Lewis the Lion from the moment he had crossed the Brazilian border into Uruguay and then onto Argentina was the number of people he saw carrying thermal flasks, maté pots and silver, metal straws. Not to mention all the people selling maté pots and straws in the streets.

Mate' pots for sale in San Telmo Market

Here you can see a traditional maté pot maker who was engraving people’s names into the maté pots.

Lewis meets a mate' pot maker

Lewis the Lion wanted to understand more about the way people drank this green tea – yerba maté, as there seemed to be special social rules that you needed to follow.

Packets of Yerba Mate' in the supermarket

Luckily for him, Helen was taking some Spanish lessons in Buenos Aires and so he was able to watch very carefully when her teacher, Flavio, explained all of the etiquette of how to prepare and drink maté – cebar el maté.

Lewis reads the Yerba Mate' packets


1. First of all, heat the water but don’t boil it and then transfer it to a thermal flask.

Boil the kettle


Pour the water into a flask

2. Pour the yerba mate in to your maté cup so that it is three-quarters full.

Pour the tea-leaves in carefully

Pour in the dried Yerba Mate till the pot is three-quarters full

3. Little by little, add the heated water. Little bubbles that appear on the top are a sign of it being at the right temperature.

4. If you like, you can add some sugar. (Yerba maté can be a little bit bitter tasting).

Add some sugar

5. Now, take it in turns to drink the maté but be careful not to touch the straw – la bombilla– with your hands.

Lewis tries some mate'

6. The person who is drinking can take their time but has to be aware that others are waiting.

7. Finally, the maté pot can be topped up with more hot water from the thermal flask but the pourer – el servador – is always the same one.

Lewis the Lion also spotted this poster as he wandered around the streets of Buenos Aires which also gives some advice on how to prepare maté:

Maté poster

Lewis the Lion realised that drinking maté is not just about sharing a cup of tea; it is a time for people to come together and be social.

Maté pots and flasks

When do you come together socially with your friends or family to share a drink or food?

About Helen Molloy

Helen Molloy has been a Primary Learning and Teaching Consultant, leading on the introduction of Primary Languages in the City of Stoke-on-Trent for the past 5 and a half years. She is passionate about language learning and inspiring children into developing a curiosity and awareness of other people's languages and cultures.
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