Mate is as tea-like beverage consumed mainly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil. It is brewed from the dried leaves and stemlets of the perennial tree Ilex paraguarensis (“Yerba Mate”). The name “Mate” derives from the quichua word “matí” that names the gourd (Lagenaria vulgaris) that is traditionally used to drink the infusion. The scientific name Ilex paraguarensis was given by the French naturalist and botanist Auguste de Saint Hilaire in 1822, the tree belongs to the family Aquifoliaceae and grows between the parallels 10° and 30° (South) in the Paraná and Paraguay rivers basins. It is a plant typical of the Alto Paraná region, Alto Uruguay region and the Argentine NE. It is a tropical or subtropical plant, needing high temperatures, high humidity and up to 1500 mm of annual rain. On average, 300,000 tons of Mate are produced each year.
Mate has a characteristic mature flavor which is somewhat sweet, bitter, withered leaf like, and alfalfa-like, similar to that obtained from tea . Of the 196 volatile chemical compounds found in Yerba Mate, 144 are also found in tea. It is used in popular medicine and employed in commercial herbal preparations as a stimulant to the central nervous system, a diuretic, and an antirheumatic .
Yerba Mate, or Mate as it is often called, is a South American herb that has won many admirers in wide-ranging parts of the world. In the search for a natural stimulant devoid of side effects and toxicity, Mate currently holds the most hope. An invigorator of the mind and body, a natural source of nutrition, and a health promoter par excellence, Mate deserves the attention of every person interested in optimum health. Yerba Mate was introduced to colonizing and modern civilizations by the primitive Guarani Indians of Paraguay and Argentina. It has seemingly always been the most common ingredient in household cures of the Guarani. In modern Argentina and Paraguay, however, Mate tea has become almost pathologically ritualized in a manner reminiscent of coffee and tea abuse in Western and Eastern countries. Among the native Guarani, on the other hand, the natural use of Mate for healthful purposes has persisted. They use it to boost immunity, cleanse and detoxify the blood, tone the nervous system, restore youthful hair color, retard aging, combat fatigue, stimulate the mind, control the appetite, reduce the effects of debilitating disease, reduce stress, and eliminate insomnia.
Mate (flex paraguariensis) is an evergreen member of the holly family. It grows wild in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Brazil, but is most abundant in Paraguay where it is also cultivated. The plant is classified vaguely, according to Western herbal medicine, as aromatic, stimulant, bitter, aperient (laxative), astringent, diuretic, purgative, sudorific (sweat inducing), and febrifuge (fever reducing). Mate contains numerous vitamins and minerals.
Yerba Mate is a tea, and can be used like any other tea. Its most popular form comes in 500 gram (17.6 oz.) bags of loose-leaf tea that is dried and ground. In some places it is available in tea bags, called Mate Cocido, but these do not provide the strength and full benefit of the more traditional methods for drinking it.
Yerba Mate (literally, the “Mate Herb”) gets its name from the traditional cup (called Mate as well) used to drink it. This cup, originally a dried and decorated gourd, can be made out of almost anything these days. In South America, where Maté was introduced to the world, Maté is still sipped from the Maté cup using a metal or wood decorative straw & filter called a bombilla.
The modern Maté drinker can choose any number of ways to extract the beneficial tea from the herb. It can be brewed like normal loose-leaf tea and filtered before pouring into a cup. It can be use in a coffee press, where the herb is infused with hot water, and then the herb is pressed out of the way of the tea. It can be made into a flavorful iced tea to drink on a hot summer day. It can be made like coffee, in a standard automatic coffee maker (make sure you use a large amount of the herb). And, if you have a Maté cup and a bombilla, you can follow in the foot steps of the ancients by sipping Maté the traditional way.