Mate is the most widespread drink in Argentina, much more than coffee and tea. Based on the National Institute of Yerba Mate, a median of 100 liters of mate per individual is drunk every year in this part of the world. Mate is present in more than 90% of Argentinian homes.
Apart from being the greatest consumer globally, Argentina is the biggest yerba producer and seller too, controlling 60% of the global market with its manual harvest in the regions of Misiones and Corrientes. There exist more than 200 brands, the leading one being Las Marías – its flagship brand Taraguí – with over a 30% local market share, as stated by the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal.
Due to these remarkable numbers, yerba mate in Argentina was rewarded with the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Apart from bringing legal safety, this certification stands for the key relationship between the quality of a product and its geographical place of birth.
The habit of taking mate on a daily basis – and many times a day – is popular in Argentina disregarding the socioeconomic position of the people. The majority prefer to have it hot through a “bombilla” (straw), in contrast to places like Paraguay, where it is drunk cold (tereré). Figures also show that the Argentinian often adds sugar to lessen the typically bitter taste of yerba.
A lot of people have mate alone while they study or watch TV, although it is very frequent to drink it with friends – a custom inherited from the Guarani. In general there is one person in the group that is responsible for pouring hot water into the mate (this individual is called “cebador”) and passing it on to each of the other people.
Those that first discovered the benefits of yerba mate were the local Guaranis in South America, while its usage was afterwards made known by the Jesuit missions.
Though mate has several health benefits as a drink, such as its delightful invigorating effect as well as its detox and antioxidant qualities, the truth is mate in Argentina is more of an old custom and a way of social interaction. It goes hand in hand with its culture and traditions.