Yerba mate is a beverage made of plant with the botanical name Ilex Paraguariensis or Paraguayan holly. Long time ago its usage was an integral part of the South America Indians’ culture. During European colonization in the seventeenth century mate became widespread to Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Jesuits managed to domesticate the plant and establish plantations in their Indian reductions in Misiones, Argentina. Time went on, and nowadays mate is known and consumed worldwide under the names yerba mate, paraguayan tea, chimarrão and tererê (in Portuguese) and some others. (More about history and culture of mate in Argentina in the interview with Andres Leonardo. The utensils for mate drinking – here).
In order to get Paraguayan tea from the Paraguayan holly, the young plant shoots are dried and ground to a powder consisting of different fractions.
Yerba Mate contains a variety of polyphenols, xanthines, rutin, vitamins of group B and some minerals. The main active substance is matein (by analogy with theine and caffeine), a stimulant of physical and mental activity.
Yerba mate has its own culture of drinking in a special way, repeatedly spilling the dried leaves with water and sipping a drink through a straw (bomb). Scientifically, this method is called percolation and implies the following sequence of actions.
Pour the mate into the vessel 3/4 of the volume. Cover the vessel with a lid or palm and shake several times to make the leaves compact. Tilt the vessel horizontally and place the bomb on the bottom. Return it to the vertical position, pour a small amount of hot (60-80°C) water. Let the leaves on the bottom soak up moisture within 1-2 minutes. Add more water, filling the vessel to the level of the leaves, but not covering them. Water extract should be drunk immediately. Pour the next portion of water and drink without delay. After a few minutes, add more water and a drink, repeat to 15-20 times.
For proper preparation, the volume of the vessel is important - the bigger it is, the more it is required the leaves of the yerba. It is equally important to follow all the rules of cooking: after placing a bomb on the bottom of the vessel, do not remove it, do not mix leaves while drinking and do not let them swim in the water.
With the above sequence of actions, each new portion of water reveals the yerba mate's taste, which varies from rich and strong to soft and dense. Video clip How to brew mate clearly demonstrates all of the above.