Mate is the most popular beverage in Argentina, well above coffee and tea. According to the National Institute of Yerba Mate an average of 100 liters of mate is consumed annually per person in the country. Mate is present in over 90% of Argentine households.
Besides being the world’s largest consumer, Argentina is also the largest producer and exporter of yerba, dominating 60% of the world market with its manual harvest in the provinces of Misiones and Corrientes. There are more than 200 brands on the market, the leading company is Las Marias (with its main brand Taragui) with domain over 30% of the domestic Mate market, according to the Tea & Coffee Magazine.
Thanks to these impressive figures, the yerba mate in Argentina has been awarded with the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). In addition to providing legal protection, this certificate represents the fundamental connection between the quality of a product and its geographical origin.
The tradition of drinking mate every day (and even several times a day) is widespread throughout Argentina regardless of the socioeconomic status of the citizens. Most prefer to drink it hot through a “bombilla” (straw), unlike countries such as Paraguay where they drink it cold (tereré). The statistics also reveal that the Argentine usually add sugar to attenuate the characteristic bitter taste of the yerba.
Many drink mate alone while studying or watching TV, but it is very common to drink mate with friends (a tradition inherited from the Guarani). There is usually one person in the group who is in charge of putting hot water into the gourd (this person is called “cebador”) and pass it to each of the group members.
The first to discover the virtues of yerba mate were the native Guarani in South America, and its use was later spread by the Jesuit missions. However, the Argentine cowboys called “gauchos” were the ones who adopted the custom of mate and integrated it forever into the lives of Argentines.
Although mate has many health benefits as a beverage, like its pleasant stimulating effect and detoxifying and antioxidant properties; the reality is that mate in Argentina is more of a historical tradition and a form of social interaction. It is an inseparable part of their culture and traditions.