January 21, 2013
“Mate is the drink of choice for most people here. You will see people everywhere…and I mean everywhere, carrying their gourd/cup with mate. It is like the US where everyone is carrying a Starbucks coffee. The gourd has a metal straw in it. People have generously offered us a sip of their mate. So far I have not tried it. Many of the beach crowd carries mate. I would not think of drinking something hot at the beach.”
Mate is the primary drink in Uruguay and Argentina. It is a basically highly caffeinated tea. There is a whole culture to drinking Mate. Special cups, often made of gourds, are used. They are sold everywhere. A special straw is used to sip the mate. The straw is traditionally made of silver. Since silver is expensive, other metals may be used, but the straws almost always appear silver in color. The straw acts as a sieve to filter out the solids of the mate leaves. The cup is filled almost to the top with mate leaves. Water is added until the leaves float to the very top edge of the cup. Many people walk around carrying a thermos of hot water, even to the beach.
Most gas stations have machines with the sole purpose of dispensing hot water to refill a thermos. Restaurants charge a small fee to refill a thermos. Water is added throughout the day to the same cup of mate leaves put in that morning. We tried mate, but I think it is an acquired taste. Perhaps if we were more avid tea drinkers to begin with.
Coffee was more popular in the northern parts of South America. Oddly, most of the coffee served is made from instant coffee. That even held true in Colombia…Home of Juan Valdez! According to a local, most of the coffee beans are shipped out to countries like the USA. We love our coffee and were pleasantly surprised to find that the instant was not bad. However, we did stock up on Colombian beans when we could.
We were in Piriapolis at a coffee shop with internet. A waiter and a waitress kept glancing our way. A few times we saw them look out the window at our car that was parked at the curb. A few minutes later, they hesitantly approached the table. Neither wanted to be the one to speak first. Finally, the gal spoke. She looked at Chris and shyly asked “Are you David Morse?” We hated to disappoint them, but we told them no, but that Chris had been mistaken for David Morse before. Their shoulders dropped and they slowly walked away. No great story to tell their friends later. So…what do you think…does Chris look like David Morse?