A Cup and A Metal Straw


October 19, 2013

Throughout Montevideo, I am struck by seeing these short, squatty drinking cups with metal straws (known as bomillas), carried around by men and woman alike.

My first observation to this peculiar fascination was on a local city bus.

A woman sitting behind me was gently holding this unusual cup with straw in one hand, while clutching a thermos-like container tightly under her arm. 

With a big smile, she began offering a friend and others to share her beverage. I was very intrigued.

What were they drinking? A mysterious elixir? No. It is MATE (pronounced mat-hay).

Throughout many countries in South America, this is a cultural, ubiquitous, and caffeinated beverage that is highly nutritious. (Its popularity is similar to our craving for Starbuck’s latest brew..)

It is consumed for relaxing and to drink amongst friends. However, it is also used as a symbol of communication and sharing between individuals, as well as a token to welcome others.

I like that cultural rapport. A societal tradition of sharing and bringing people together – all through a warm beverage!

What if we could enhance our own social relationships with others, by offering a portion of our Starbuck’s Venti Soy, Extra Hot Light, Foam No Whip Lattes with friends or even a total stranger?

I doubt this act of sharing would ever become a popular – stateside, but maybe we can learn from this cultural tradition and just be nice to people around us!