A traditional Guarani Indian tale tells the story of the origins of the Guarani in the forests of southern Paraguay. According to tale, the ancestors of the Guarani at some time in the forgotten past navigated a vast ocean from a distant land to settle in the area we now know as Paraguay. These travelers found the land both breathtaking yet full of dangers. It was only after diligence and struggle that they settled the land and bring into being a new civilization.
The Guarani people tended to the land and became exceptional craftsmen. As they worked, they looked forward to the arrival of the tall, fair-skinned, blue eyed, bearded God Pa’i Shume who, according to the traditional tales, came down from the skies and expressed his pleasure with all the Guarani had accomplished. Pa’i Shume brought sacred knowledge and taught to them agricultural methods to benefit them during times of drought and pestilence as well as on a daily basis. Most importantly, He unlocked the mysteries of health and medicine and revealed the beneficial and medicinal qualities of the local flora. The most important of these teachings was the knowledge of how to harvest and prepare the tea made from the leaves of the Yerba Mate tree. The Mate tea was meant to ensure health, vitality and long life.
Now the Guarani would clear part of the wooded area, plant manioc and corn and harvest their crops. After four or five years the soil would be worn out and not produce the same harvests. The tribe would have to move on. After years of following this pattern, an ancient member of the Guarani tribe refused to go on and decided to remain where he was. The youngest of his daughters, a beauty by the name of Jary, was then place in the most difficult of positions. Should she move on with the tribe to their new territory or should she stay with her father until death gave him final peace. Despite the entreaties of the tribe, she fulfilled her familial duty and stayed with her father. Her father the ancient grew weaker and weaker. This display of devotion and love could not go unrewarded. One day, a mysterious shaman arrived at the home and asked Jary what she wanted in order to feel happy.
Jary did not say a thing but her father asked “I want new strength to go on and take Jary to the tribe that went away.”
The shaman gave the ancient father the greenest of plants, imbued with kindness, and told him to plant it, pick the leaves, dry them by the fire, grind them, put the pieces in a gourd, add water and sip the brew. “In this new beverage, you will find healthy company, even in the sad hours of the cruelest solitude.” The shaman went away.
This was the genesis of the “caá-mini,” which is the source of the caá-y infusion that later immigrants would adopt under the name of Chimarrão in Brazil and Yerba Mate in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Savoring the green brew, the ancient recovered, acquire new potency and vigor, and was able to follow the path of the long departed Guarani. After a long journey, the ancient and his daughter Jary were reunited with their tribe and received with the utmost celebration. Upon hearing of the shaman and his gift, the whole Guarani tribe adopted the habit of drinking the green (yerba mate) herb, both bitter and sweet, that gave them strength, courage and comfort.
This is how Yerba Mate became the most universal sacred ingredient, the “Drink Of The Gods,” in the home of the Guarani and it remains so to this day.