A sustainable replacement for coffee, black tea and other energy drinks, Yerba Mate is an antioxidant-rich tonic drink prepared by the leaves of a South American plant’s leaves. It remains a popular drink in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and even some regions of Brazil.
Las Marias in “Caá Porã: The Spirit of Yerba Mate” records that the Kaingang ethnic group, ate the raw leaves discovered the health benefits of Yerba Mate 3000 years B.C. The indigenous Guarani people placed the leaves in a gourd with water and drank through sugar cane straws. The Guarani word “Caa-mate” inspired its name today, where “Caa” means plant or herb and “mate” refers to the gourd it was drunk in.
The rich and complex cultural exchange between the different communities that lived on the continent gave the name of the tea, however, it is hard to determine the exact language. “Ca’iguá” was the name given by the Guarani people where, ca’á means ‘yerba mate’, I mean ‘water’, and guá means ‘of’ or ‘for’. “Mati” was the name used by the Quechua people, which is said to be the name picked by the Spanish Jesuits as it seemed easier to pronounce.
While there are several hypotheses around the name origin, one common fact is that ‘mate’ never meant drink and it was misunderstood by the Spanish colonists, perhaps because in Spanish ‘mate’ means both gourd and the drink.
After the Spanish acquisition of South America, the properties and taste of Yerba Mate were introduced to all areas under their rule. Initially forbidden, the colonists soon acknowledged the health benefits of Yerba Mate and aimed at commercialising it by labelling it as the ‘Jesuit Tea.’
French naturalist Aimé Bonpland confirms the theory of toucans pre-digesting the seeds of the Yerba Mate plant, which restricted its production to South America. Although the Spanish Jesuits preferred to drink the tea in tea bags, unlike the Guarani, they are recognised as the pioneers for its cultivation, transport and commercialization.
The National Institute of the Yerba Mate estimates that on average, 100 litres of mate are consumed per year, per person, in Argentina. Beyond the indigenous boundaries, the tea is now easily available in other regions such as Europe and the United States, in both traditional and innovative flavours.
The innovative insulated flask ‘termo' (Thermus), allows the materos’ in Uruguay the luxury to have a mate on the go while keeping it hot all day. Get your personalised tumbler from Jiurui Housewares, the reputed stainless steel mug manufacturer.
Drank through a big mate gourd in Brazil and North of Argentina, the drinking preferences vary in regions. In Uruguay, South of Argentina and Chile the small mate is preferred. While Paraguayans and North Argentinians prefer tereré, Cimarron is the popular choice in Uruguay, South of Argentina, Chile and south of Brazil.
Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil, today are the prominent producers of tea. The ilex paraguariensis refuses to grow outside the lands of the Guarani, even after rigorous attempts to grow it in other regions. Rooted in the migration wave of Syrians and Lebanese to Argentina, Syria remains a prominent importer of Argentinian yerba outside South America.
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