Bar Iberia is one of Montevideo's oldest bars and once served a clientele dominated by seamen from the busy port. Also frequented by writers and artists, it has staged plays as part of an art project with other local cafés and bars.
Uruguay – Fact Check

"Never drink mate from an old man's cup"

Photo by Francesco Pistilli

Uruguay – Fact Check "Never drink mate from an old man's cup"

In Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, I learn that drinking mate is an art.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

This tea-like herb is the staple beverage, probably because of the incredible amount of caffeine it contains. It is common to see men as well as women walking around with a vacuum flask under their armpits and a cup in their hand, pouring hot water from time to time and sucking the infusion through the bombilla, a metal straw.

Andres, my host at the Dolce Vita Hostel in Montevideo, introduces me to the technique of drinking it. “People in Argentina know about mate, but believe me hermano, it’s here in Uruguay that it becomes an art,” he says. “It’s not a joke, it’s a way of living for us. First of all, you fill three-quarters of the cup with the herb, and then you shake it upside down with a wet hand covering the top, in order to remove the dust.

“Now you pour in some cold water and wait for five minutes, so that the mate can absorb it. After that you can add hot water, but it’s very important that you keep the montanilla (mountain) dry and don’t wash the yerba like they do in Argentina. And never ever try to move the bombilla, especially if you’re drinking from an old man’s cup; he could kill you for doing that.”

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