Drinks based on yerba mate Yerba Mate in a bottle is one of the many ways of infusing Paraguayan holly. Drinks based...
Yerba Mate - properties and history
Not all caffeine drinks encountered by Europeans during the colonial expansion have caught on in the old continent. The indigenous peoples of the Americas have known at least a few types of caffeinated plants for centuries, yet only cocoa has been popularized on a massive scale in Europe. One of the blessings of the New World that, despite its discovery, did not take root overseas was yerba mate. The name, most probably invented by the Jesuits, comes from the Latin word herba , meaning herb, and the Indian word mati denoting the gourd in which the brew is being prepared. Yerba mate in Spanish, erva mate or chimarrão in Portuguese, caá mate in Indian - there are many names, as are its terms - Jesuit, missionary, Paraguayan tea. However, they all come down to one thing - an infusion of Holly leaves.
The story of Yerba Mate
The history of yerba mate goes back to pre-Columbian Paraguay, which was reached by Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century. Having settled down in the Parana river basin inhabited by the Indian tribe of Guarani, they very quickly noticed that the natives had a habit of chewing the leaves of an unnamed evergreen shrub. The monks in the leaves of Paraguay Holly - as it was later called - saw a profitable alternative to tea imported from Asia to Europe. The plant (chewed or steamed) stimulated, increased concentration and suppressed the feeling of hunger.
Unlike coffee and cocoa, yerba mate was not domesticated in the 17th century. The leaves for the infusion were obtained from wild shrubs scattered in Paraguayan swamps and forests. The Jesuits, recognizing the enormous economic potential of yerba mate, then developed only known techniques for planting and growing holly. Plantations established by the monks were the main source of income for missionary reductions until the order was closed in 1773, and their main labor was the local Indians.
The first Spanish settlers who came to the Parana basin also adopted the practice of drinking yerba mate. The initial Spanish colonization of the area at the mouth of the Paraguay River to Parana was closely related to the Jesuit missionary reductions called misiones or reducciones from the Spanish . When the Europeans came to Parana, there were as yet no distribution channels or market for drought outside the region. It is thanks to the techniques of planting and cultivating the shrub, developed by the Jesuits, that yerba mate very quickly gained popularity in the entire Andes and in the Rio de la Plata region, and its distribution routes led, among others, to today's Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and Peru. The Jesuits, seeing the success of their cultivation in their home yard, made an attempt to export holly leaves to Europe in order to capture the local market. Yerba mate, however, did not meet with the recognition and enthusiasm of Europeans, whose tables had been ruled for some time by tea that came from China.
Yerba Mate has never been introduced to the European market. Perhaps because it gained popularity in South America only at the end of the 17th century, that is, long after coffee and tea were popularized in Europe. Moreover, the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish colonies in the second half of the 18th century definitely ended not only the missionary reduction activities, but also the cultivation of holly on their plantations. It is true that the Spaniards tried to continue the Jesuit heritage, but without the appropriate knowledge and techniques that passed away with the monks, their attempts ended in a fiasco, and the production of yerba mate was again limited to the difficult and arduous search for wild bushes. After the fall of missionary reductions, the Spaniards returned to the traditional method of harvesting, based on sending the Indians on long trips to the swamps,
South American Holly plantations remained in oblivion until 1896, when a man named Francisco Neumann managed to plant and grow a shrub of this wild evergreen plant for the first time in over a hundred years. A few years later, in 1903, the first post-Jesuit plantation was established in San Ignacio, the place where the Jesuits used to conduct their missionary activities. This time, the farmers and the so-called gaucho, i.e. cowboys engaged in breeding cattle and riding horses and bulls. Thanks to them, the tradition of drinking yerba mate also moved to the cities and was popularized again on a national scale.
Until the 19th century, the leading producer of yerba mate in the world was Paraguay - the father of this South American gift. At the end of the century, however, Brazil took a leading position in the production of drought as a result of a long and devastating economic and agricultural war that brought Paraguay to its knees. It didn't take long, however. As early as the 20th century, Brazilians realized that it was more profitable for them to grow coffee, and Argentina took the lead in the race to become the main producer of yerba. There, immigrants from Syria and Lebanon got acquainted with the drink, and soon spread the habit of drinking holly infusion in the Middle East.
The popularity of Yerba Mate - what was the role of the Poles?
In the mid-nineteenth century, Poles appeared in the Misiones province. They reached Argentina after the fall of the January Uprising with the first wave of Polish economic emigration. Like most of the settlers who came to this region, they dealt with the cultivation and production of dried Paraguay. Among them was also Julian Szychowski - the founder of the La Cachuera plantation, where the yerba mate 'Amanda' brand, which is now recognizable today, comes from. His son - Jan was posthumously honored with the order of the Ministry of Agriculture for his contribution to the development of industry. The company of Julian Szychowski's descendants is in the top four of the largest yerba mate producers in Argentina.
The members of the Polish community in Argentina, seeing the enormous potential of the Paraguayan brew, made an attempt to introduce it to the European market in a very short time. The tasks were undertaken by Teofil Rudzki on behalf of Edmund Saporski - a pioneer of Polish settlement in Brazil. The enterprising Pole appeared in Warsaw in 1882. His increased commercial and marketing activity and the great interest of Europeans in the goods he brought did not appeal to the tsarist authorities, who saw a threat to Russian merchants trading in tea imported from China in yerba mate. The high duty imposed by the Tsar on the drought in Paraguay effectively stopped the popularization of the drink in Eastern Europe.
Yerba Mate tea ingredients
Paraguay Holly is found in northeastern Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil. The area of its occurrence is the Parana basin, which is limited to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the west by the Paraguay River. Throughout history, there have been many attempts to cultivate the shrub on other continents - but each time they ended in failure. The current cultivated forms of holly are in the initial stage of domestication, which means that they do not differ significantly from their wild variety.
Nevertheless, for more than half a century, researchers and scientists have been developing more and more effective plantation breeding techniques aimed primarily at increasing yields and the caffeine content in leaves and stems. Today's paraguayan holly plantations are established in the virgin backwoods of the subtropical forest, and leaves and buds are selected and harvested by hand. The plant has many varieties - today as many as 180 species are researched and described.
The taste of yerba mate depends on many factors: the type of crop, the place and time of harvesting, the drying process, the proportion of leaves to stems in the dried and used additives, such as herbs or dried fruit. In terms of taste, the following types are distinguished:
• Yerba mate from only leaves, without stalks: strong and bitter in taste, popular mainly in Uruguay and southern Brazil.
• Yerba mate with stems: mild in taste (recommended for beginners), common in Paraguay and Argentina.
• Organic yerba mate: with or without stems, grown without the use of insecticides, pesticides or other chemicals.
• Flavored yerba mate: usually with a higher stem content than the leaves, with the addition of dried fruit or citrus peels.
• Yerba mate compuesta: a mixture of dried and other ingredients, in which a minimum of 60% are leaves and stalks of Paraguay holly, and a maximum of 40% other herbs, e.g. mint, thyme, sage and rosemary.
• Yerba mate cocido: yerba mate in sachets - a practical and convenient way to prepare an infusion in field conditions, without the necessary accessories.
• Yerba mate tereré: cold yerba mate poured with cool water with ice cubes.
Yerba Mate properties
It is not without reason that yerba mate is said to have the power of coffee, the health benefits of tea and the joy of chocolate. Its positive effect on physical and mental health is confirmed by numerous scientific studies. The infusion of the leaves of the Paraguay holly contains almost all the microelements necessary for the proper functioning of our body. Regular consumption supports the immune system, cleanses the body of toxins and prevents many diseases.
Yerba mate contains, among others tannin, which has an anti-inflammatory effect, chlorogenic and caffeic acid, terpenes, lactones, a number of vitamins (B1, B2, B6, E, C), minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium and sodium, as well as polyphenols that have antioxidant properties and prevent cancer. Among the other beneficial properties of yerba mate, it is worth mentioning:
• Properties that stimulate and improve concentration
Thanks to the caffeine content, yerba mate not only stimulates, but also supports concentration, improves mood and increases psychophysical efficiency. The drink is more lively than coffee, and at the same time does not have negative side effects - it does not cause irritation in case of higher consumption, does not increase the risk of hypertension, does not disturb sleep, does not cause headache and does not flush minerals from the body (especially calcium and magnesium).
• Antioxidant properties
Antioxidants found in the leaves of the Paraguay Holly have the ability to eliminate oxygen free radicals from the body, the accumulation of which contributes to the formation of the so-called oxidative stress underlies many diseases, including heart disease, liver disease and cancer.
Supporting the immune system
The nourishing ingredients of yerba mate (including vitamin C, E, selenium and zinc) help fight parasitic, bacterial and fungal infections, as well as increase the overall level of immunity. Yerba mate also contains saponins, which are natural compounds with anti-inflammatory properties.
• Slimming properties
Studies show that yerba mate reduces appetite and speeds up metabolism, which translates into weight loss and a reduction in the risk of obesity-related diseases.
• Properties lowering the risk of heart disease
Its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood cholesterol-lowering properties help protect the body against heart and circulatory disease.
• Antidiabetic properties
Yerba mate lowers the blood sugar level and thus reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
Yerba Mate brewing and drinking accessories
In ancient times, Indians prepared yerba mate in hollow gourds and drank it through their teeth. Over time, they began to use a cane straw, which was not an ideal solution, however, as the ground holly leaves made their way into their mouths. At that time, perforated and on one side closed bamboo tubes were put into use - a prototype of the later bombilla.
Today, the preparation of yerba mate requires, first of all, a suitable vessel, known as the Spanish matero . Currently, you can get them in all sizes and shapes, made of all kinds of materials: from ivory, through silicone and wood, to ceramics, glass and metal.
A traditional variant used for hundreds of years by the Indians in Paraguay is matera made of gourd, a fruit similar to a pumpkin. The gourd is cut, dried, prepared and then decorated. Wooden mattresses are also a popular solution. The flavor of the brew depends on its type, which is why the most commonly used wood is algarrobo, cocobolo, kebraczo, cinnamon trees, orange trees, rose trees and classic oak.
A traditional type of yerba mate dish is also guampo, a matero made of buffalo horn or cow hoof. Guampa were very popular among Gauchs, i.e. South American cattle herders in Paraguay, where they are still widely used today.
More modern versions of yerba mate brewing vessels are mainly based on glass, steel, ceramics and silicone. They are easy to clean, do not absorb flavors or odors, and because they conduct heat - they are often covered with leather, which gives them an additional exotic look.
The second inseparable element of the yerba mate preparation set is the bombilla, a special straw equipped with a strainer that separates the leaves from the infusion. Most often it is made of metal (alpaca, stainless steel or silver), although it can also be found in a glass and even wooden version.
In terms of the shape of the filter, bombillas are divided into two types: a spoon-shaped straw with holes, which is perfect for drinking yerba mate with stems, and a straw with a tight spring that acts as a strainer. When buying a bombilla, it can often be purchased in a set with a special cleaner that facilitates the hygiene of the straw.
For those more comfortable or on the go, stores selling yerba mate accessories offer infusers in which you can prepare an infusion without the need for matera and bombilla. The measured amount of herbs should be poured into a wooden, metal, paper or bamboo infuser and then poured over with water. And since yerba mate must be brewed at 70-80 ° C, you will also need a special thermometer to prepare it. Another convenience for travelers is yerbomos, i.e. a yerba mate thermos consisting of a vessel, a pipe and a water container.