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  • Vanderbilt University Center for Latin American Studies


    By Vanderbilt Center for Latin American Studies

    A famous drink in South America is mate, a tea-like beverage made from the yerba mate plant. Leaves from the plants are dried and placed into a mug (or traditionally a gourd). Then hot water (but not boiling) is poured over the leaves, and the mixture is allowed to rest for a few minutes in order to steep. To drink it, a person places a special straw called a bombilla into the mixture and sips. This straw has a filter in it that traps the yerba mate leaves, so the drinker only receives the infused liquid.

    It is believed that the Guarani people were the first to make tea with yerba mate in what is now known as Paraguay before the Spanish arrived. The legend claims that one day the Goddess of the Moon and the Cloud came to visit Earth but met a dangerous jaguar. An old man saved her from the jaguar, and the Goddess gave him the yerba mate plant in gratitude.

    Mate quickly spread as the Spanish conquerors moved to what is now known as Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Mate became so popular that it is now considered the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It is commonly drunk with friends, where people drink from the same bowl, passing it around the group. Traditionally, the

  • Vanderbilt University Center for Latin American Studies

    person who prepares the mate is the first person to take a sip, making sure it is a good blend before passing it to another person. Sometimes, people add sugar or fruit juice to make the mate sweeter or crushed local medicinal herbs for health benefits. Brazil established a park called the Parque Histórico do Mate where visitors learn how to responsibly grown yerba mate and protect the oldest wild forests of mate in the world.

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