The History Of Yerba Mate Tea

Inhabitants of South American countries have been cultivating yerba mate for hundreds of years.

Yerba mate, a drink created from the dried leaves of an evergreen plant, has become a staple in South American nations through its beneficial health effects and traditions. For centuries, inhabitants of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay have been cultivating the product to be a beverage for consumers all over the world.

Found as a round-headed tree in the wild and grown as a shrub in controlled settings, the yerba mate plant, which is also known as Ilex paraguariensis, is cultivated in certain regions of South American nations before it is prepared for production.

One method involves placing the plant’s branches on a tatacua, or a flattened area on the ground, before burning a fire around it to begin the roasting process. Next, the branches are heated over the fire and the leaves, which are put into an earthly pit, are ground into a powder, completing the preparation for the product. Another procedure requires the roasting of the leaves in cast-iron pans, although both practices are suitable for the drink’s manufacture.

Birds-eye view of yerba mate
Birds-eye view of yerba mate. Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

The powder is then put into a dried gourd and covered with hot water before the consumer sips the infusion with a bombilla, a metal straw with a strainer to filter the leaf fragments.

Although the beverage is commonly found in South America, its history stretches back hundreds of years to the Guaraní, an indigenous group located mainly in Paraguay and scattered throughout nearby countries.

The people’s legend tells the story of the moon who, after hearing about the joys of the earthly jungles, transformed into a young woman and explored the lands. While traversing the area, she encountered a jaguar and froze with fear. Fortunately, a Guaraní hunter calmed the animal and safeguarded the woman before she converted back into the moon later that night. To thank the man, the goddess gifted the Guaraní yerba mate.

yerba mate gourd and bombilla
Yerba mate gourd and bombilla. Photo by Lautaro Andreani on Unsplash

Another story describes a shaman giving an older Guaraní man a plant to prepare and, after doing so, he gains strength and tracks down relatives who had left.

A third legend explains how the god Pa’ I Shume appeared to the crafty and hospitable Guaraní tribe, which is said to derive from the Tupi family, in order to present them with the secrets of health and medicinal herbs. The god-fearing group accepted the yerba mate gift and believed it was due to their generosity and values.

Since its origination, yerba mate has become a product manufactured across the world and provides consumers with the opportunity to enjoy its vitamin, antioxidant and mineral-rich contents in a unique way.

yerba mate with mountains
Yerba mate with mountains. Image by sorondojp from Pixabay

As the drink is often shared communally, its users may form memories with family and friends by sipping the beverage in decades-old gourds, although one can purchase a specialized cup from various retailers.

While the drink can be bought from chain stores or companies that mass produce it, it is possible consumers obtain the best experience by enjoying it in a country that attaches great significance to it, such as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay or Uruguay.

yerba mate
Photo by Jorge Zapata on Unsplash

Ray Lewis

Content Editor Associate

Originally from New Jersey, Ray developed a passion for traveling through his adventures in Europe. He created unforgettable memories in Greece and Italy, but is looking to explore more countries in different parts of the world as well.

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