Yerba mate tea or simply Mate is a traditional beverage of South America that is prepared with yerba mate leaves. Popular by the names ‘chimarrao’ and ‘cimarron’, mate is particularly served in countries like Argentina, Southern Brazil, Southern Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivian Chaco.
Yerba mate or ‘erva mate’ in Portugusese is a shrub plant that has evergreen leaves containing caffeine like substance. Due to the presence of caffeine and other related compounds, yerba mate leaves are specifically used to prepare teas and other infusions.
History of Mate
Yerba mate tea had become popular as a beverage during the late 16th century in Paraguay. Spanish settlers and the local people of South America, known as ‘Guarani’, were fond of this tea since the time of its invention. In 17th century, the popularity of Mate had spread to Chile and Peru along with Bolivia.
At present, Mate is the national drink of Uruguay. However, the Argentinians and Paraguans also claim Yerba Mate infusion as their national beverage.
Preparation Overview of Mate
There are distinct ways of preparing yerba mate tea that varies in different cultures and regions. Preparation method of tea is also a subject of debate as to what method should be adopted to get the best infusion.
However, the elements used in the making of tea are quite similar for all the methods. A ‘gourd’ is a kind of vessel that is traditionally used to drink Mate. The vessel itself is also called as ‘mate’ or ‘guampa’. Yerba is essentially used to nearly fill half of the vessel and hot water is poured over it.
The most important factor in the preparation of Mate is the proper mixing and shaking of the vessel in order to get a perfect infusion. The amount of yerba should be accurate as too much or too less of will result in an undesirable drink. Additional herbs may also be added to the water and yerba mixture for incorporation of health factor and extra flavor.
An adequately filled vessel or ‘gourd’ is held by the preparer in hands and covered by the palm. The vessel is then shaken vigorously and gradually the speed decreases. This shake allows the dried yerba leaves to mix thoroughly in the water. The fine particles are allowed to set on the palm of the preparer and most on the top of the vessel.
Once the infusion is prepared, a special metal straw known as ‘bombilla’ is used to drink the tea. The straw acts as a strainer as well. It has small holes at the bottom that allows only liquid to come in the straw and let particles remain in the vessel itself.
Generally, yerba leaves are used in chopped, dried or powdered form; but with commercialization and to ease the process of making yerba mate tea, the yerba tea bags are also introduced in the market.
Yerba Mate Tea Benefits
Mate tea is approved by FDA and it is included in the US list of GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) items. The cancer-fighting properties are quite significant in Yerba mate tea and it is approved by In-Vivo study.