The Meaning of Mate, and how they’re poured

posted in: Mate, Tradition | 0

Yerba mate is more than a drink: it’s surrounded with history and tradition. Some of the tradition is linked to popular culture, with a special connection to life in the country rather than in the big cities. The meaning of mate is hidden in the way it’s prepared and poured.

Argentinean writer Don Amaro Villanueva did research on the subject over half a century ago, recollecting these ideas that are rooted in a hazy past and that come from unknown authors. As an aficionado of both slang (lunfardo) and yerba mate itself, he was connected to all aspects of the subject.

I’m interested in sharing these ideas because there are only few articles online that talk about the subject, and they are in Spanish. In addition, I think it’s a fun complement to the other aspects of yerba mate previously discussed (health benefits, buying mates, yerba mate’s terms, etc.). Since yerba mate is a social drink, pouring one can also be a way of sending a message. Ready to find out more?


Pour Some Sugar On… My Mate

To make sure you’re not telling your lover you despise them, or your coworker that you fancy them… make sure you know how to pour the proper mate!

  • Bitter mate (with non or very little sugar or artificial sweeteners). It simply means the other person doesn’t care much about you. Ouch!
  • Sweet mate. A symbol of friendship and empathy.
  • (Too) sweet mate. In this case, it means you need to talk to the parents of the person pouring the mate… but nobody knows where this comes from!
  • With burnt sugar. Similar to the one above, this means sympathy.
  • Mate with cinnamon. A way of flirting, of showing interest to someone you’re attracted to. What a subtle way to hint it, right?
  • Mate with milk. A way of showing a respectful friendship and esteem.
  • Mate with honey. A marriage proposal! Cheaper than an engagement ring…
  • Mate with “cedrón” (verbena). I hear chappel bells… Marriage proposal accepted!
  • Mate with lemon. This means the other person doesn’t want you around. That’s sour…
  • Mate and tea. This shows indifference.
  • Hot mate. Yes, this is pretty straightforward: the person pouring is passionate about you.
  • Cold mate. Exactly the opposite above – this implies contempt. Brrr!
  • Boiled mate. Warning: this means hatred! It’s poured with boiling water, known as “burnt mate” and has poor flavour. It’s also known as “mate de gurí” (traditional slang for “children’s mate”)
  • Mate with foam. Lovely way of showing you love someone very much. Awww!
  • “Washed off” mate. A subtle way of asking the person being served to go have mate somewhere else – or just get the hell away.
  • “Fresh” mate. New yerba in the freshly prepared mate is a very good sign – they were waiting for you!
  • “Long” mate. Unwelcome visit. Harsh…
  • “Short” mate. The person that you’re visiting pours the mate this way because they want to see you more often.
  • Non-stop pouring. When someone is pouring mates over and over, the intention is to get the person to be full fast and stop having mate with them.
  • “Blocked” mate. When you can’t easily suck the beverage through the straw. This basically means they want you to go away. Sad…


How do you feel now that you know the meaning of mate, and the secret language in the way it is poured? Were you familiar with any of the meanings before? Share your stories below… and be careful next time you drink mate with your friends!

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