About the origin of Mate
Mate is an infusion from South America, popular in places like Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay. To comprehend its current meaning, it is essential to be familiar with its history.
The Guaraní and their yerba
Mate consumption goes back to the Guaraní people (natives of varied South American regions), as demonstrated by the research carried out by journalist Amaro Villanueva. They used to simply chew the leaves or put them in a gourd with water, and then have sips. Actually, the name “Mate” derives from the Guaraní “Caa-mate”, “caa” meaning plant, grass, and “mate” referring to the gourd. Other groups of people such as the Incas, the Charruas or the Araucanos adopted Mate from the Guaraní. For the indigenous people, the Mate plant was a sacred present granted by the gods, and Mate had a unique, spiritual meaning, apart from its nutritional benefits.
Popularity during colonial times
Thanks to its properties, Mate soon grew popular among the Spaniards that colonised South America. The Yerba was carried from its place of origin all through the area under Spanish control and, above all, the Jesuits were the ones who extended the use of Mate by making use of it in their reductions. However, they drank boiled Mate and did not use a gourd. Moreover, they discovered that Mate plantes germinates uniquely in certain places of South America - a secret later proved by the French botanist Aimé Bonpland.
The “gauchos” and their love for yerba mate
Throughout the long process of Argentina’s independence in the XIX century, the habit of Mate gathered momentum in its folklore. The “gauchos” (something like Argentine cowboys) adopted the drink as part of their culture, alongside horseback riding and wearing leather pieces of clothes. They had Mate in groups during the meals of the day, as well as before going to bed.
Yerba mate, nowadays
Yerba Mate is grown in Argentina, Paraguay, southern Brazil, where the soil, temperature and wetness conditions are optimal. The infusion is part of the everyday routine of an average Argentine, the same as it was for those old gauchos. It is drunk at home, at the office or university, in the park, not only due to its virtues, but also for the social bonding role it plays.