YERBA MATE

(yerba mahtay)

The yerba is a medicinal and cultural drink of ancient origins introduced by the Guarani Indians. This drink is highly caffeinated and is prepared by steeping the dry leaves in hot water. Yerba has benefits for health. Yerba Mate is a tea-like beverage famous in all over the world but is consumed mainly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil. It is brewed from dried leaves and stemlets of the perennial tree Ilex paraguarensis. Mate derives from the quichua word “mati” and the scientific name was given by the French naturalist and botanist Auguste de Saint Hilaire in 1822.
This tree belongs to the family Aquifoliaceae and is very typical in the Paraná region and Paraguay’s river basins. This plant takes about 25 years to develop completely and its full height reaches to about 15 meters. It flowers between October and December.
Mate has a flavor that is somewhat sweet and bitter. It is used in popular medicine and helps the central nervous system by its aroma.
Mate is usually shared with friends with a bombilla (hollow gourd). It is a very common practice in South America (Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil).
Some benefits of the mate is that it energizes the body, stimulates mental alertness, helps lose weight, relieves stress, and calm allergies.

LEGENDS
#1)
According to the legend, the Guarani ancestors passed the great ocean to settle in the Americas. They found this land to be wonderful yet dangerous and they inaugurated a new civilization and soon became excellent craftsmen. The Guarani tribes worked the land and became excellent craftsmen. They looked forward to the coming of a tall, fair-skinned, blue eyed, bearded God (Pa' i Shume) who descended from the skies and was pleased with the Guarni. He taught them religious knowledge and imparted to them certain agricultural practices to benefit them. He unlocked and revealed the secrets of health and medicine by extracts of the native plants. One of these plants was the Yerba Mate. This God taught them how to harvest and to prepare to ensure health, vitality, and longetivity.
#2)
An Indian tribe would clear part of the forest and harvest the land and plant manioc and corn. However, after four or five years the soil would be worn out and the tribe had to move on. Tired of such moving, an old Indian refused to go on and stayed where he was. His youngest daughter, the beautiful Jary, was heartbroken by this decision and quickly had to decide to either stay or go. However, she wanted to help her fataher until his death. Despite her friends’ please, she ended up staying with her father. Her decision gave her benefits later. One day, an unknown shaman arrived at the ranch and asked Jary what she wanted to do in order to feel happy. The girl did not ask for anything. But the old man asked: "I want new forces to go on and take Jary to the tribe that went away". The shaman gave him a very green plant and told him to plant it, pick the leaves, dry them on fire, grind them, put the pieces in a gourd, add cold or hot water and sip the infusion. After saying, "In this new beverage, you will find a healthy company, even in the sad hours of the cruelest solitude," the shaman went away. Thus was born the "caá-mini," which became Yerba Mate. With this drink, the old man recovered and gained new strength and was able to resume their long journey toward meeting their kinsmen. They were received with the greatest joy. And the whole tribe adopted the habit of drinking the green herb, bitter and sweet, that gave strength and courage and comforted friendships at the sad hours of utmost solitude.

Some Guaraní words related to Mate:
• Barbacuá: from mbarambacuá = ma (pile) + ra (euphonic) + mbacuá (toasted or roasted thing)
• Caä: Yerba Mate
• Caá-guará: Mate drinker
• Caá-i-guá: Mate gourd (literally: container of the water of Yerba Mate)
• Caá-u-ei: thirst of Mate
• Mboroviré: Yerba Mate slightly "canchada" (desiccated and broken)
• Sapeca, sambeca or sapeá: pocá, peá or mbecá (to open) + za or sá (eye) = to open the globules or vesicles of the Yerba Mate by the heating process
• Ticuá cá ay: "cebar el Mate" (literally: to throw water in the hole)


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