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Mate history: myths and secrets

We take a tour of the history of the infusion that defines us and we tell you its secrets and its legends


Although in 2013 the mate had been declared a "national infusion" by the National Congress, it was on November 30, 2015 the first time that National Mate Day was celebrated, after the law was published in the Official Gazette sanctioned on December 17, 2014. The date was chosen to commemorate the birth of Andrés Guacurari and Artigas, a Guarani leader who was one of the first federal leaders of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata and the only indigenous governor of Argentine history .

Appointed by José Gervasio Artigas as General Missions Commander, Andrés Guacurari and Artigas ruled between 1815 and 1819 the then Great Province of Missions, from where he encouraged the production and distribution of the yerba mate.

Origins of the mate round

In the beginning, the custodians and users of the yerba mate were the Guarani. They used their leaves as drink, object of worship and currency in their exchanges with other peoples. Caá in Guaraní means grass, plant and jungle. For this town, the yerba mate tree was, above all, a gift from the gods.

But those who were responsible for spreading their consumption and their virtues throughout the then Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata were the conquerors. Years later, the Jesuits introduced the crop in the reductions or missions of the Jesuit Guarani. Thanks to them, yerba mate became popular.

In this way, drinking mate became one of the traditions that, as few, has remained unchanged for centuries, taking root and expanding around the world. So much so that today in Argentina about 100 liters of mate are consumed per year per person.

Pau Navajas, author of the book Caá Porã, The spirit of yerba mate (Las Marías Establishment, 2013), states that drinking mate is one of the customs in force in our country since before its independence. Navajas, which addresses in its text the infusion from its origin to its participation in the formation of the national identity and the Argentine economy, ensures that even those who fought for independence in 1816 should kill themselves between the heated discussions in the House of Tucumán.

“The story was written later, and that is why details of everyday life were lost. But surely the congressmen drank mate; In fact, everyone who worked was doing it while doing their jobs, as now”, he said in a note to La Gaceta, the main newspaper in Tucumán.

“In 1816 there was a context of isolated regions, with very strong regionalisms, and mate was one of the few transversal elements, such as the poncho. It was a common identity building element. Therefore, it must have had a very important role on that date, something good to investigate deeply since no chronicle or illustration shows the congressmen drinking mate in the sessions, ”says Navajas.

Likewise, he explains that thanks to the stories of outsiders who came to explore these lands, it was possible to reconstruct that mate crossed all social strata, united and equaled: it was consumed by rich, poor, masters, slaves, natives, Spaniards, men, Women, young and old. It was even shared between members of different positions as slave and patron.

Razors account that the way to distinguish social classes did not happen to consume mate or not, but why attachments were included, both in the "recipe" and in the objects to drink it. Thus, the aristocrats of the time returned to the most select infusion by adding milk, cream, cinnamon or cloves. And “they sent to work their mattes to Potosí, with the silver there. The more ostentatious, elaborate and baroque it was, the more refined it was considered. They also had the figure of the primer, which was located in the rooms of the houses. At that time the mate was offered as today tea or coffee is offered, ”describes the author.

In front of the mate we are all the same ”

The phrase was said by Valeria Trapaga in a TED talk, the first matt sommelier in the country. "In front of mate we are all the same." That condition was one of the many things that attracted her and led her to become an expert in the secrets of this ritual drink of the Argentines.

Trapaga, who travels the country sharing his knowledge about the yerba mate in talks and meetings, adds that "the yerba mate is not ground leaf tucked into a package, it is much, much more than that."

The specialist declares herself in love with mate and takes advantage of the talk space to deny 3 of the most widespread legends about this drink:

  1. "The yerba mate powder does badly." False. Leaf powder is one of the most virtuous components of this infusion, it gives it softness and foaminess. It makes the mates rich and surrendering.
  2. "Scraping the mate is right to uncover the bulb." It is not proven. So that the bulb does not cover, the best thing we can do is to squirt cold or warm water at the beginning of the mate, so the grass swells and in this state does not enter the bulb.
  3. "You can drink mate at more than 85 degrees of temperature." Or "If the water is boiled, cool it with a jet of cold water." Error. In this way the whole drink is ruined because when the water boils we take away the oxygen, and therefore the solvency power, which is what allows the herb to show all its flavors and aromas.

6 secrets to make a good mate:

  1. It fills three quarters of the mate.
  2. He shakes it by covering the mate's mouth with the palm of his hand.
  3. The whole herb is left on one side of the container so that when it is stopped it is placed obliquely.
  4. A jet of cold or warm water is thrown into the part of the mate where there is less grass, that is, in the lower part of the slope. When the grass swells, that's where the bulb is placed.
  5. The mate is primed by pouring the water as close as possible to the bulb to avoid wetting all the grass. In this way, it will retain its flavor for a longer time because each time we pour water into the container, the dried herb will gradually feed, releasing the flavor. If all the grass is wet, the mates will wash faster.
  6. It is recommended not to move the bulb once the mate starts so that it does not cover and so that the dried grass does not get wet.

Finally, the specialist shares 2 valuable teachings related to the ritual:

“To prime is not to serve. To prime means to distribute feeding, an action in which I need to put a share of love, affection and dedication. The idea is that we begin to prime and not serve mates. ”

“The greatest magic that mate has is inherited from the Guarani who discovered it. They ordered their life according to a principle of reciprocity because they considered that it was not richer who had more if not the one who had the greatest capacity to share material and spiritual goods with others. That's why when they discovered the yerba mate and made it part of their lives, because for them it was a potion, they decided that they had to share it. And it was in front of the fire, which was sacred, and passing a bowl, they made this decision. Today we share the mate thanks to that gesture, to that mystical and magical message of the Guarani ”.

Source: Cultura.gob.ar

Publication Date: 14/04/2019

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By: Paola 03 November, 2019

Hola, buenos dias!. Quisiera saber si tendrian informacion sobre los primeros contenedores de mates. Tengo que investogar pata un trabajo y no encuentro info sobre origen de bolsos materos. Desde ya agradezco cualquier aporte Excelente domingo!

By: Juan 14 February, 2020

En respuesta a

Inútil no ves que es del mate Jajajajajja

By: Pacifico walter alessandrini 09 November, 2019

De que costumbre nos llega el dicho "más largo que mate e' velorio"?

By: PABLO 19 December, 2019


By: Alfredo 31 March, 2020

En respuesta a

Alessandrini; ese dicho hace referencia a la antigua costumbre de velar los difuntos ( pasar la noche en vela) donde se entiende que salian "verdes" de tanto tomar mate hasta que rayara el alba. obviamente a la situacion amarga se le sumaba esta interminable cebada de mates amargos porque lo mas probable es que eran amargos... pero era que si tenian azucar se les terminaba y como la noche es larga seguian con mate amargo.

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