Yerba Mate History
Máte is a typical drink of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil. First discovered by the Guarani aborigines, who drunk it as tea and also chewed the leaves. In Guarani culture, yerba máte had a social role beyond its nutritional benefits. It was an object of worship and ritual, used as currency to trade with other tribes. It is also believed that after the creation of different gods, the Guarani aborigines gathered together to drink yerba máte.
The tradition of sipping yerba mate spread to the Jesuits monks that arrived in Misiones (Argentina). At first, the Jesuits monks considered it dirty and dangerous to drink yerba máte but later adopted this habit, given the medicinal, therapeutic and economic benefits they perceived this tea had. The drink became known as ‘the tea of the Jesuits’, because they were the first people to cultivate and plant the crop. Yerba máte evolved to become the main source of income of the Jesuits monks.
In 1645 permission to market the product was granted by the king of Spain, who charged a tribute for this produce. The Jesuits created ‘yerbales orchards’ that became a booming business by the 18th century. However, the plantations were abandoned when the Jesuit monks were expelled from South America in 1767. One hundred years later, the cultivation of yerba máte reemerged and become an important crop for the Creole immigrants and other European settlers in the region.
Today, yerba máte is sold as dried, ground loose-leaves and is present in every Argentinean household. In hot weather climates, Tereré a cold water drink, is the favorite of all. The tradition of preparing yerba máte with hot water in a gourd is known as ‘mate cebado’ and is the most widespread use of the tea in South America. Mate cebado is prepared by placing the yerba máte leaves in a gourd, adding hot water (never boiling) and sipping from a bombilla (i.e. straw with a filtered end).