After giving the question some thought, I decided that the most representative Argentine Spanish word that cannot be directly translated into English is the verb matear (to drink mate), along with its other forms such as the gerund, mateando (drinking mate), and the noun derived from the verb, mateada. Matear is itself derived from another noun, mate (pronounced MAH-teh), which is a drink similar to green tea made from the yerba mate plant (ilex paraguariensis—it’s part of the holly family). (To distinguish it from the word mate, meaning pal or seaman, in English mate is often spelled with an acute accent on the e—maté—but in Spanish the accent is unnecessary and would in fact be incorrect, since it signifies where to place the stress in a word.)
So what exactly does matear mean? The essence of the mate experience is that it is done with more than person, as a social event among friends or family. Of course people can drink mate solo, and do all the time, but matear means to get together, take some tea, and enjoy the company of others. Mate is not only the drink but also the wooden cup—originally a gourd—in which it is served, a shared bowl with straws. Mate straws can have a special flattened end that filters out the particles of tea, and they’re often made very beautifully, of silver or steel, and built to last.
So matear implies a pause in the daily routine, sharing a quiet moment with your pals or loved ones during which stories and jokes are told. It can happen at any time during the day, and can be an event in itself, with people just showing up in order to sip a mate with friends.