What is mate?
Mate is an infusion that is made with yerba mate and is very popular in South American countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and now in recent years very popular here in Chile.
What is the mate made with?
This drink is prepared with yerba mate, which is a tree (Ilex Paraguariensis) native to the jungles around the Paraná River, Uruguay River and Paraguay River. This tree with a height of between 12 and 16 meters is harvested manually in the period between the months of April and September, in order to carry out the harvest, the plants are pruned to a height of 3 meters. The ideal conditions for the cultivation of yerba mate are only in this region of South America and that is why it is only produced significantly in three countries: Argentina (the world's main producer), Brazil and Paraguay.
How do you drink mate?
After being dried and ground, the yerba mate leaves are easily available in any supermarket in the producing countries. This already ground yerba is placed in a container that is also called mate (originally a gourd or bamboo, the oldest, but today it can be made of glass, metal, wood, etc.) and hot water is added, but without boiling. (Between 73 ° C and 83 ° C approx). The infusion is drunk through a thin tube called a bombilla, which comes with a special finish so that the yerba mate does not leak until the water is finished, and then it is refilled. It has an herbal and slightly bitter taste, which is why some prefer to take it with sugar, sweeteners or honey.
Another way to drink mate is the cocido mate, popularized by the Jesuits in the 17th century. In this way, water is heated and the yerba is added before it boils. It is then strained and served in a cup.
Mate according to the country
In Argentina it is common to drink mate among friends, where there is a person in charge of filling the mate with water or "priming" the mate (The term Cebar comes from doing or doing something with love) and passing it on to each of the people in the group. In Uruguay, for example, many people tend to go down the street with their mate and a thermos of hot water on their arms. In Paraguay the yerba is more yellow and is consumed mainly with cold water and ice, or also natural juices (tereré). The yerba mate from Brazil is finer and greener with a characteristic flavor of them.
In Chile for several years this tradition is gaining strength, even though it has been customary for many years, especially in the south of the country. At this time it is highly desired by young people for its flavor and benefits to health and sports, also used a lot by students and professionals to accompany their study and work days.
Why do you drink mate?
Mate contains caffeine like coffee or tea, and that is why it also has a pleasant stimulating and energizing effect. In addition, thanks to the large amount of water, it has a diuretic, purifying and antioxidant effect. However, in the countries mentioned, mate is also taken as a form of social interaction and the ritual of mate has a great cultural and historical load.
Benefits of Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is antioxidant
Yerba mate consumed in its traditional form has greater antioxidant power than green tea. This is reflected in its high content of polyphenols, which improve the body's natural defenses and prevent cellular aging, often accelerated by the stress of everyday life.
Yerba mate regulates cholesterol and helps improve blood pressure
Mate improves cardiovascular health by reducing cholesterol levels (between 15% and 18% if consumed daily, according to a study by Maza University), even preventing arteriosclerosis. It also has a slight hypotensive and vasodilatory effect that can be beneficial for people with high blood pressure problems.
Yerba mate is a natural energizer
Thanks to its percentage of caffeine (also known as "mateine"), it increases stimulation and concentration just like coffee; however, although both have relatively the same amount of caffeine, the stimulating effects are slightly different.
Yerba mate is perfect for sports
The mateína present in yerba mate stimulates the nervous system, so the consumption of mate is ideal before any physical or intellectual activity. This drink is recommended for athletes as an alternative to other commercial energizers. In fact, some say that mate is the secret of success for some acclaimed footballers.
Another great advantage for athletes: the recovery rate after an exercise routine increases considerably with the consumption of yerba mate, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Yerba mate provides very few calories
Mate does not contain fat, it is also low in calories and sodium. It can be included without problems in any diet and in the routine of anyone who is trying to control their weight or simply prefers to have a healthy diet. Yerba mate is a great nutritional supplement
In addition to its antioxidants and polyphenols, yerba mate is rich in amino acids and essential vitamins (mainly group B, where 8 of the 13 vitamins that the body needs are found). It also contains minerals of significant importance such as potassium and magnesium.
Yerba mate prevents diseases
This infusion has powerful bioactive compounds for the prevention and control of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus (by reducing glucose and lipids), cardiovascular and coronary diseases (by reducing cholesterol levels); Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (by preventing so-called "oxidative stress") and osteoporosis (for its various benefits for bones).
Yerba mate purifies your body
Mate also has a diuretic and moderately laxative effect, therefore it prevents fluid retention and improves the development of kidney function. This helps the body eliminate toxins and purify itself naturally.
Yerba mate is digestive
Drinking mate influences stomach and digestive health by stimulating the production of bile and gastric acids, while promoting bowel movements. The properties of yerba mate make it an excellent ally to relieve constipation, as long as it is combined with the consumption of 2 liters of liquid per day.
Yerba mate is antidepressant
Finally, the consumption of yerba mate also has a positive effect on emotional health. By acting as a natural energizer it is also a natural antidepressant, but, being a drink that is shared with friends and loved ones, it encourages moments of well-being and joy. Yerba mate can be drunk warm in winter or cold in summer, it is an excellent companion for meals and you can even choose a variety of mate that goes with the personality of each person.
History of Yerba Mate
The consumption of mate dates back to the Guaraní people (indigenous natives who were in some countries of South America), as confirmed by the investigations of the essayist and journalist Amaro Villanueva. They either directly chewed the leaves or placed them in a gourd with water and sipped. In fact, the word "mate" comes from the Guarani "Caamate" ("Caa" would be a plant or herb, and "mate" refers to the gourd where they drank it). Other peoples such as the Incas, the Charruas and even the Araucanians adopted mate thanks to exchanges with the Guarani. For the natives, the mate tree was a sacred gift from the gods, and in fact mate had a special and spiritual meaning for them, in addition to its nutritional value.
During the long journeys through the jungles, the conquerors noticed that the Guarani had greater resistance after taking this sacred drink.
Thanks to its virtues and benefits, mate soon became popular among the Spanish who came to colonize South America. Yerba began to be carried from its place of origin to the entire territory that was under Spanish rule, and especially the Jesuits were responsible for widely extending its use by including mate in their reductions, although they took it in the form of mate in sachets and not with light bulb. They had also discovered that the plant germinated only in this region of the world, a secret confirmed half a century later by the French naturalist Aimé Bonpland.
The cultivation of mate today
Yerba mate is grown in Argentina, Paraguay, and southern Brazil, where soil, temperature and humidity conditions are ideal. Mate is part of everyday life, it is consumed equally in homes, offices, parks, universities and squares, not only for its properties as an infusion, but for its role as a social bond.
Now it is possible to enjoy this natural and beneficial infusion in many parts of the world.