Yerba mate ceremony


Mate tray

This past Sunday, I was invited to drink mate  at a lovely sheikha‘s house in the Chouf mountains. Mate is a green herb popular and traditional in Argentina and other parts of South America;  the Druze community in Lebanon has imported yerba maté  into their villages in the  Chouf mountains;  it has become an intrinsic part of the social traditions.  Maté  is not only reputed for its numerous health benefits but it is also a social drink

To drink maté, one must acquire a gourd and a straw (called mate and bombilla in Spanish). The straw is cleaned by  rubbing it with a lemon peel; first, the sheikha  asked me if if I liked it sweet or unsweetened. I took a sip or two then it was her turn. The gourd is passed around and one will drink numerous cups of it and chat leisurely. 
The taste is grassy, but pleasant.

Sheikha told me that maté is a drink that gives her energy and reduces her stress. When I read about its health benefits, I was astounded. (Summary at the bottom).

Wood furnace in kitchen

While I was there, I met the Sheikh and his son, both poets; they graciously recited their short and eloquent poems (which I recorded and will post on youtube once I translate them); the poems  were delightful. We talked openly about many topics, including what is required of one to become a sheikha (and wear the veil). 

Sheikh Ali

I found out that the sheikha loved to cook and made everything from scratch; she even roasted her own coffee beans (drinking Arabic coffee as well) with a traditional large spoon made specifically for that purpose. She gave me a jar of her homemade tomato paste ( a far cry from the usual stuff we buy at the supermarket) with a recipe (coming up). It was such an enriching encounter.

hugs between friends


Health benefits of maté:

Aids weight loss; alleviates depression, anxiety; helps with allergies; antioxidant; stimulant; strengthens the heart; boosts immunity; aids digestion; anti-inflammatory; hypotensive; reduces wrinkles; improves memory; diuretic; vitamins. 

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  1. Posted April 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Hello Joumana
    a nice post about the Mountain Community.. you know I was raised in Mouseitbeh and our next door neighbors were also Douruz the Arbeed Family and every afternoon they will sit outside and have a mate gathering… they invited me many times, but never did… this is something I like to try one day…
    did you like it???

  2. Joumana
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    @Arlette: I loved it!! First, the ritual is so nice, sharing with another is wonderful; I started reading up on maté and it is SO healthy, I think I am going to start drinking it every day!

  3. Posted April 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    So good! I’m drinking my mate (it is a herbal tea not a kind of green tea) while I’m reading you. I grew up with mate, as many in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brasil, but when I came to Canada and wanted to buy it, I only could find it at Arabic stores, and that was a surprise for me. Later on, I knew that many immigrants from Lebano and Syria that lived in Argentina, went back to their countries with their mate. It is fantastic!
    I miss the mate ceremony though, sharing with friends and talking. In our ritual, the person that guides the mate drinking is the “cebador”, and when he ask us whether we like bitter or sweet, as a courtesy we say “as you wish”. The cebador is in charge of everything.
    I’m glad you like it! Sometimes, I drink it with a piece of orange peel…..
    Sorry for the long post!

  4. Posted April 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    A nice Lebanese tradition…this big variety of cultures is what really makes Lebanon unique

  5. Posted April 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful! What a special treat and time.

  6. Posted April 15, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely love these interactions. What a beautiful opportunity to learn and discover while enjoying this tea ritual. Love it.


  7. Joumana
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    @Marcela: I am so happy to get more explanation on maté; I thought it was fascinating and I am planning to start drinking it myself; need to get more precisions though on the quantity per gourd, etc.

  8. Posted April 16, 2013 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    Now if only we could get the ingredients here, this sounds like it is really good for you. Have a good day. Diane

  9. Posted April 16, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Stunning photos! Looks so special (: x

  10. Posted April 16, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Joumana I’ve never heard of Mate before, thank you for teaching me something new!

  11. Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    There is a mate tradition in Lebanon??? You always surprise me with these facts! I like sipping it with my Brazilian friends now and again.

  12. Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    What a delightful ceremony. I would love to see the YouTube!

  13. Posted April 22, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    My youngest son got turned on to yerba mate last summer on a month long backpacking trip, can’t wait to show him this post!

  14. Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Quel magnifique moment !

  15. Posted March 17, 2014 at 3:01 am | Permalink

    everybody’s doin the mate, che!

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