What is Yerba Mate’ (pronounced mahtay)? This question has been asked many times on my site. Simply put, it is considered a “tea” that is very prevalent in the South American Indian tribes and is based heavily on the beliefs of their ancestry.
Yerba Mate’ is considered the most popular beverage in all of South America. It is often named Paraguay Tea. Its plant grows wild all over the South American countries. It is considered a tropical plant. The Yerba Mate’ needs to have extremely high humidity and plenty of rain. The plant itself is considered an evergreen-type plant that is in the holly family. The scientific name is Ilex Paraguarensis.
The French botanist, Auguste de Saint Hilaire gave Yerba Mate’ its name. The tea is made from the tender leaves and the new shoots from the plant. It takes about twenty five years for a plant to mature. Then the plant will bear small flowers and berries.
It is all the rage and is considered somewhat of a phenomenon in the countries of Brazil and Paraguay. The South Americans like Yerba Mate’ because it is considered a stimulant. They feel it is less piquant than regular camellia sinensis (black tea). It does contain caffeine. But much of the attraction is not only in what the drinkers feel it does for them health-wise, but what it does for their soul. It is dubbed “the friendship drink”.
When one feels close to someone, it is time to share their Yerba Mate’. It is interesting in how the Yerba Mate’s is prepared and what is drank out of. The leaves of the dried holly plant are put directly into a fancy gourd that has been prepared for drinking. Gourds are opened at the top and contents are removed. The gourd is then dried. When the gourd is ready it is then adorned with silver mountings at the opening. These “gourds” can be highly decorative and even placed atop pretty silver stands. The gourds themselves can be in various shapes but the most prevalent are the globe type shapes.
The process in which Yerba Mate’ is made is also interesting too. The dried leaves will go directly into the gourd cup. Then boiling water is applied, but not to the top; approximately half-filled with boiling water. Some Yerba drinkers may pour cold water on the rest, but most let the first pour seep for a bit and add more boiling water until filled. Then it is left to seep for a few minutes more.
To consume the Yerba Mate’ one will use an interesting spoon, called a bombilla to sip its contents. A bombilla is straw that can be made of metal or wood that has a basket on the end of it. This strainer type of straw allows the drink to pass through but will catch the leaves.
Yerba Mate’ is a cultural experience, which is backed by ancient Indian legends that are treated as sacred. When true bonding happens with other individuals the Yerba Mate’ is passed from one person to another drinking out of the same bombilla. The South American people believe that Yerba Mate’ gives them strength and courage, and clarity. They believe further that it has medicinal effects as well. They believe that it will cleanse them, control their appetites, boost their immune systems, and stimulate their mind. Although there has been little to no testing done on this type of tea, as with any new herb introduced into your diet please seek the advice of a doctor. Some herbs can interact with other medications.
While Yerba Mate’ is extremely popular in South America it is not as of yet popular in the United States. It is said to have a woodsy, harsh taste that needs to be acquired. Yerba Mate’ can be purchased in tea bags; however it is most popular in its loose leaf state.