Lionel Messi drinks mate. Now David Beckham does, too — and he’s posting all about it on social media.
What’s this all about, you ask? We’re here to help.
Mate is an all-natural, caffeine-rich South American tea that is popular in countries like Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. It requires a special cup or gourd and a metal straw and thermos, but very little in the way of preparation, and has been described as tasting earthy, bitter and bolder than green tea.
More than that, however, mate is a symbol of love and affection. You share this tradition with those near and dear — parents pass down the custom to their children, friends gather to pass around a mate while they discuss the day’s happenings. That’s the ritual.
It’s no surprise then that Inter Miami superstar and captain Messi takes his mate with him no matter the time or place and shares this love with others. Most recently, it seems he’s gotten the team’s co-owner hooked, too.
Since Messi’s arrival to South Florida, Beckham has shared multiple Instagram stories about mate. One image showed Beckham taking a sip with the caption, “If it’s good enough for Leo.” Another showed off a gleaming mate-and-thermos set sporting Inter Miami’s logo and Beckham’s initials. Caption: “Looks like I’m part of the gang.”
How to be like Messi & Beckham
So you’re curious to try it but don’t know where to start?
Well, start with the mate gear. This includes the special cup, a “bombilla” (metal straw with filter), and a thermos for hot water, at the very least. The cups come in a variety of materials, from wood to ceramic, glass to metal. For purists, there are ones made from a hollowed-out calabash or bottle gourd.
Kits can also come with a “yerbera” (container for mate leaves) and an “azucarera” (container for sugar). One online business, Argentina Select, has five- and six-piece sets sporting Messi’s image, including one showing him kissing the FIFA World Cup trophy. Visit argentinaselect.com (or find other models at sites like etsy.com and ebay.com).
Not ready for the whole set? You can buy pieces separately. For example, the Latin food distribution company Amigofoods, headquartered in Doral, has a 1-liter Lumilagro Luminox steel thermos dedicated to the Argentina national team, with Messi front and center. Visit amigofoods.com/lumilagro-luminox.html.
Of course, you’ll need the most important of ingredients: the yerba mate leaves.
Because you’re fortunate enough to live in South Florida, you’ve got lots of options. Find brand names such as Cruz de Malta, Rosamonte and Taragui at specialty markets including Sedano’s, Bravo and Milam’s. Even select Publix and Whole Foods locations have been known to carry yerba, though you may want to check availability in advance. (You may even come across yerba mate blends with lemon, orange and grapefruit flavors.)
Other spots include:
Buenos Aires Bakery & Cafe, 2208 N. Flamingo Road, Pembroke Pines, and 230 71st St., Miami Beach; buenosairesbakeryandcafe.com
El Rey de la Medialuna, 3253 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood; elreydelamedialunamiami.com
Graziano’s, which has locations throughout Miami and one in Weston, at 1717 Main St.; grazianosgroup.com
In general, preparation requires just a few easy steps. Different countries, even different families, may change up certain steps, but we’re going to make the instructions as simple and straightforward as possible. This is Mate for Beginners 101.
- Heat water in a kettle to your preference and pour into thermos. (Make sure it does not boil!*)
- Fill your mate cup with the yerba leaves (about one-third to halfway), then pour in about a half-teaspoon of cold water*.
- Insert the metal straw at an angle and pour hot water almost to the top.
- Take a first sip and spit it out (this is done because the first sip is considered too strong and bitter).
- Then drink up — and keep refilling your cup until the thermos is empty.
*This is to avoid scalding the mate leaves.
You can add sugar to taste, but this is optional, of course. You can also make it cold during the summertime by replacing that hot thermos with a pitcher of ice and your favorite lemonade, apple or orange juice. This version of mate is known as Tereré.
If you wish to take it a step further and go for the full ritual experience, share it with friends and family. In this age of COVID, passing around the mate cup may not be popular among newbies, so perhaps everyone gets their own cup?
In any case, now you can be just like Messi and Beckham. Enjoy!