Paraguay. A country located in the very heart of South America. For most of the year, the sun shines there, although there are also areas where rainforests have their own paradise. The life there looks different, a man does not rush, it is peaceful and every gift that nature brings seems to be appreciated. People live in harmony with nature and treat each other with respect.
A small, provincial town. The heat is pouring from the sky. Two bearded men with deep wrinkles are watching children playing on a dusty road. Looking up at the sky, they take a large sip of a drink again and again, sucking a thin metal tube with chapped lips. In their sweaty hands rests a wooden cup with Yerba Mate. At some point, a small boy runs up to the elders. Tired of playing with other children, he sits down for a moment on a wooden stair. He also looks at the sky. Not a single cloud, not even the slightest signs of them in this light blue sky. The toothless old man, curves his lips in half smile, ruffling his gray beard with his fingers. He gives his drink to his small companion who, without a word, sticks his little lips to the tube making a loud sound. No steam comes out of the cup, on the contrary - the drink is well chilled, giving relief on this hot day. The boy jumps off the stair, gives the old men a sincere smile as if to thank them for this wonderful moment of coolness. He disappears somewhere around the corner, probably wanting to catch up with other children who seem to have escaped from the place of play to look for even the slightest shadow. The old men are watching the road for a moment. They watch as the dust touched by human feet rises into the air creating gray clouds. It's time to take shelter in the chamber, at least there is a shadow. They drink up their greenish drink with a smile, they barely raise their old, tired legs and slowly go toward the door. The sun isn’t going to hide for even a moment. Anyway, where would it hide. Not a single cloud, not even the slightest one in this light blue sky.
What is yerba mate and how to make it
This greenish drink, which brings such relief in hot days, is called yerba mate (herba from Spanish is herb, mate is a dish in which it is being drunk). Yerba mate comes from Paraguay. Both adults and children drink it, not only in this country, but also in Argentina, Uruguay or Brazil. Yerba is served in dishes usually made of calabash or wood. It is filled in 3/4 leaves. Then top of the cup is being covered and carefully turned upside down and shaken. This way, dust and small leaves fall down (on the hand), and the large leaves stay on the top, which will prevent the bombilla from clogging up with dust about that a bit later). Smaller elements should be on top, while larger ones should be on the bottom. To consume yerba mate a bombilla, or metal tube with a wide, riddled end serving for drinking in necessary. In the pre-drilled hole, water is poured cautiously at a temperature of about 70° C. The water soaks slowly, so it is necessary to pour a little bit more. When it soaks again, the same action can be repeated once more. There should not be too much water, the leaves can not be flooded. When the yerba mate is ready, the feast begins. Elders and youngsters meet at one table and make drinking yerba in a family ritual. They drink it in an atmosphere of friendship and peace, laughing and telling each other interesting stories. One person plays the most important role, because it starts the ceremony giving the drink to gathered household members and friends. This ritual did not come out of nowhere, it has a centuries-old history, but about that in a moment.
Yerba Mate’s homeland
You need to know that the habit of drinking yerba mate is sometimes close to madness. There are vending machines on the streets with hot water designed for making a drink. It is also drunk by taxi drivers during work and students during lectures at the university. Many of them maintain that they are not able to study for examinations if they do not drink at least one sip of their favorite drink. Sometimes it's a great excuse for students in South America to consume yerba mate. However, before the Yerbamania begun in Paraguay and other Latin American countries, this tea drink has come a long way. That's how its rich history begins ...
Yerba mate’s history
Long time ago, before the first Spanish settlers came to South America, the Indians called Guarani built their settlements. This tribe found out that Lagenaria vulgaris (calabash) has good and strong wood. They started to make dishes and filled them with crushed leaves. The Indians noticed that it was not possible to taste the finished mixture, so they began to use the stick, in which they dug the hole, in a way they were able to taste the infusion. According to the legend, the god of goodness helped them. He went down to earth and taught Guarani the art of brewing an unknown energetic yerba. As the legend says, god taught them how to dry the leaves, crush them, and finally make a brew out of them and chew them in their pure form. When Guarani possessed this secret knowledge, they took leaves for their long expeditions and did not part with their precious possessions. They consumed yerba mate in a ritual circle, giving themselves vessels in a set hierarchy - the most important members of the tribe were first to drink.
At the end of the 16th century, the Jesuits reached the place where the Indians settled. They were on a mission in South America. Very soon they saw huge, economic potential in yerba mate, so they decided to set up numerous plantations. When the Europeans arrived in Paraguay, there was no tea market there yet. The Jesuits did not get discouraged by that and consistently built their yerba empire. In 1700, drinking yerba mate was very popular from the Andes to river Rio de la Plata. It was being sold not only in Paraguay, but also outside its borders. The goods were exported to Santa Fe, from there the fame of this infusion passed to Chile, Peru, and even Argentina and its capital Buenos Aires. It was 1770 and the popularity of yerba mate increased significantly. It also began to host on the elite tables. The dish in which the drink was consumed was decorated with silver. South America went crazy about the tea infusion and there was no home where there would be no yerba mate on the family table, regardless of social status.
How does yerba mate taste
The yerba mate phenomenon is not understandable to everyone. There is a large group of people who do not like its smell and taste, but as there are different personalities and tastes, there are as many supporters of this drink. It is difficult to define the taste of yerba mate. It can be said that it has a slightly earthy tobacco flavor and a distinctive, bitter taste. However, it may differ, because there are many types of yerba. Drought from ground leaves, dust and twigs has got traditional bitter taste. On the other hand, there is a rich assortment of fruity taste yerba mate (for example, citrus fruits such as limes and oranges, but also pineapple, peaches and others). Also popular are yerba mate with the addition of herbs and spices such as cedron, coriander, Andean herbs and mint.
Yerba mate is one of the beverages that have a very good effect on human health. It contains vitamins A, C, E, B1 and B12 as well as minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. It has been a component of many herbal medicines used in South America for centuries. The chemical ingredients of yerba mate are very similar to those that green tea contains, however, they are much more nutritious.