Mate is a cultural tradition that effaces the borders between countries of the Southern Cone. The Mate drink, first prepared by the aboriginal Guarani people, is a vital part of the culture in countries like Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and of course, Uruguay. It brings people together and serves as a way to socialize. In this blog, you will learn everything about this infusion and why you should try it during your next trip to Uruguay.
The first historical record of Mate dates back from the 17th century in Paraguay, when Spanish conquerors described an infusion drink consumed by the Guarani people. The word Mate comes from the Guarani "mati," which means calabash. It refers to the calabash gourd from which the drink was poured. The drink itself is an infusion of the dried leaves of the plant Ilex paraguariensis
. The Guarani people didn't just live in Paraguay, but throughout the territories now known as Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Brazil. This is the reason why this drink is consumed in all of these countries. However, over the years, each country has slightly modified Mate Drink and made it unique.
For example, in most places, Mate Drink is prepared at home, with a kettle, and poured into a gourd. It is drunk through a silver or stainless-steel straw called "bombilla." It is generally shared among friends and family, all sharing the same bombilla.
However, Uruguayans tend to enjoy Mate a little differently. For example, they don't only drink Mate at home; they take it anywhere. It is very common to see people on the streets with a gourd and a thermos full of hot water. Also, Uruguayans usually prefer for each person to have their own gourd and bombilla. Finally, they prepare the drink with only the leaves of the yerba-maté plant, unlike Argentinians, who also use the stems. This could be a result of the Portuguese influence over the region.
Origins of Mate Drink
The origin of Mate drink is a subject of constant debates between these countries, especially between Argentina and Uruguay. Argentinians often boast about being the country with the highest production of yerba-maté. However, Uruguay has the highest consumption of this drink in the world. Approximately 80 percent of its population enjoys the drink regularly, with a per-capita consumption of over two gallons a year. This is a testament to the importance of the beverage for the country.
Not only is Mate a great way to socialize with other people, but it also has many health benefits. It has a high concentration of polyphenols. These are a type of natural antioxidants that are also found in red wine and green tea. However, the concentration of these substances in Mate drink is unparalleled. This boosts your body's defenses and protects your cells from damage. It also helps decrease the levels of bad cholesterol and is a great source of vitamin B, potassium, and magnesium. It is also very energizing due to its caffeine content, and improves attention and concentration.