Mate is an infusion made with leaves of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis), a plant native to the Paraná river basins, Paraguay and the upper course of Uruguay. These previously dried, cut and ground plants form the yerba mate, which has a bitter taste due to the tannins of its leaves (is like a strong green tea). Therefore, there are those who like to slightly sweeten the mate with sugar, honey, stevia or non-caloric sweetener. The foam that is generated by “priming” is due to the glycosides that the yerba mate contains.
It has been consumed in America since pre-Columbian times by some ethnic groups of Tupi-Guarani origin, such as the Avá, the Mbyá and the Kaiowa, and also, to a lesser extent, by other ethnic groups that traded with them, such as the ñandevá, the Taluhets and the qom.
It was quickly adopted by the Spanish colonizers and was part of the cultural heritage mainly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and also in areas from the South of Brazil and South Mato Grosso, as well as to the south and east of Bolivia and Chile especially in the south (between Aysén and Magallanes).
As with tea, coffee or chocolate, it has a stimulating effect due to the caffeine it contains. Previously, and popularly, it was thought that it had a similar but not equal energizer, at which was called “mateína”.
That effect is compensated by the high consumption of water, resulting in a digestive infusion, purifying and – having antioxidants – preserving the body. Like the other infusions mentioned, mate has a certain acidity, which is why some times we add- in a few proportions – other herbs (digestive, liver function regulators, sedatives, etc.) that neutralize acidity, as well as offsetting the slight stimulating effect of caffeine.
Traditionally, it is drunk hot (80 degrees) with an iron straw called “bombilla” placed in a small container, which is called – according to the area – “mate” (made of wood, glass or any material), “cuia”, “porongo” (made of pumpkin) or “guampa”, which contains the infusion.
So, if this is your firs time trying mate, ask for it with sugar otherwise maybe is to bitter for you.