Mate is an infusion made with yerba mate, very popular in South American countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.
This beverage is prepared with yerba mate, a native tree from the jungles around the Parana river, the Uruguay River and the Paraguay River. This plant with a height between 12 and 16 meters is manually harvested between the months of April and September. The ideal conditions for the cultivation of yerba mate can be found only in this region of South America and that is why it is only significantly produced in three countries: Argentina (world’s leading producer), Brazil and Paraguay.
After being dried and ground, the leaves of yerba mate can be easily found in any supermarket of the producing countries. The yerba is placed in a container which is also called mate (originally a calabash gourd, but nowadays it can be made of glass, metal, wood …) before adding hot water (not boiling). You drink it through a thin straw called “bombilla” until you finish the water, and then you refill the container.
It has a herbal and slightly bitter taste, and some people prefer to drink it with sugar or honey. Another way to drink it is boiled mate, popularized by the Jesuits in the Seventeenth Century. In this way, you add some yerba to the hot water before it boils, then it is filtered and served in a cup.
In Argentina it is common to drink mate with a group of friends, where one person responsible for filling it with water (“cebar” the mate) and pass it to every person in the group. In Uruguay, for example, many people tend to carry a mate and a thermos full of hot water down the street. In Paraguay, the grass is yellow and is consumed mainly with cold water (tereré). Brazilian yerba is thinner and greener.
Mate contains caffeine just like coffee or tea, so it also has a pleasant stimulating and energizing effect. Moreover, thanks to the large amount of water, it has a diuretic, purifying and antioxidant effect. However, in these countries, drinking mate is also a form of social interaction and the ritual of mate has a great cultural and historical importance.