Indulging in Mate and Dulce de Leche in Buenos Aires

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Two of my favorite fun eating adventures in Buenos Aires are drinking Mate and enjoying Dulce de Leche. On my recent trip to Buenos Aires, I overindulged enjoyed both, but realized I still had a lot to learn about Mate and Dulce de Leche.

Let’s look at Mate, first!

A quick tip: When you order mate (pronounced, mah-tay) be sure to order the classic mate. Otherwise you’ll get a mate teabag! Mate is the symbol of friendship and was originally a traditional “gaucho” (local cowboys) drink. Then the Spaniards adopted it, and so it goes throughout its five centuries of mate history. In Argentina, it is the beverage of highest consumption, second only to water.

Mate in Buenos Aires

The first thing you do is “cure” it. Yerba is the leaf and mate is the drinking vessel. Fill the mate half way up with yerba; add warm water and let it sit for one day. Rinse the mate and it will be ready for use. Drinking mate is fun. Fill the mate half way up with yerba; cover the top with the palm of your hand, turn it upside down and shake like a cocktail shaker, but be gentle. This procedure draws the thinner yerba to the surface. Place the mate right side up in its normal position, put in the “bombilla” (drinking straw) and add a small spoonful of sugar (to taste). Pour in warm water and wait for the yerba to absorb it; then add more water until the mate is filled to the brim. The mate is ready for drinking!

Up next, Dulce de Leche!

I might as well admit that my favorite way to consume Dulce de Leche is as ice cream or gelato. According to tradition, Dulce de Leche was invented in Argentina during civil war time in 1829. The story goes that one afternoon, Juan Lavalle visited his enemy, Juan Manuel de Rosas, to discuss war affairs. Finding that Juan Manuel was not at his headquarters, Lavalle decided to wait and go to sleep in the tent. At the same time, there was a woman cooking a “lechada” (hot milk with sugar) for the soldiers. By chance, she entered the tent where Lavalle was sleeping. She was surprised and frightened and went to look for the guards, leaving her “lechada” boiling, which ultimately led to the milk becoming a dense cream of caramel color. A hungry soldier found this preparation, and after tasting it and finding it delicious, invited others to taste it as well. So Dulce de Leche was born! As it evolved, other ingredients like vanilla were added, and over the years it became a symbol of Argentina’s culture. Nowadays, it is not only used as a spread, but also in baked goods, ice cream, and for other recipes, too.

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Both Mate and Dulce de Leche are worth making a trip to Argentina for and somehow they taste better to me when I’m in Buenos Aires! :)

Do you like them or have you never tried them? Let me know!

13 thoughts on “Indulging in Mate and Dulce de Leche in Buenos Aires

  1. Tim A.

    Lived in Argentina for 15 years. Love both those things!

    My wife is Argentine; don’t know that she can go a day without her mate.

    1. shelli

      Hi Tim! Thanks for your comment. The dulce de leche helado at Volta was addicting. Does your wife put anything into her mate or just takes it straight up? I found a bit of sugar helpful. People told me all the various things they put into the mate, like lemon, and that now it’s also being enjoyed as a cold beverage, too.

    1. shelli

      HI John! That’s a good question but hard to answer because Mate is a beverage and dulce de leche is food. I’m a coffee drinker, so Mate was a stretch for me. If I lived in Argentina or Chile, I think I’d get into the Mate scene more. For sure when you try Mate make sure to ask for it the classic way. If not, they’ll just give you a Mate teabag! The gelato in Buenos Aires with dulce de leche was amazing. Let’s just say I consumed way more dulce de leche than Mate :)

  2. Grant

    I’ve been down here in BA for about four months now. The pervasiveness of mate is insane. Whenever you meet someone new, there’s mate, the police outside in the middle of the night are drinking mate, and I have a cup of it on my table right now.

    Also, you can drink mate cold too. It’s called Terere and is a very different experience to hot mate. Chileans often make cold orange Tang and use it instead of water inside the terere. That’s particularly good.

    I hope you enjoyed your time in BsAs!

    1. shelli

      Thanks for your take on the mate scene down in BsAs, Grant. I talked to many people who are drinking it cold and often as an afternoon beverage. Since the temps didn’t drop below 95 degrees while I was there, I should have tried it cold. I was too busy drinking coffee :) I have cousins in Chile so I’ll as them about the Tang. Sounds good! I did have fun in BsAs, as I’m sure you are too!


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