What is it?
The name "Mate" derives from the quichua word "matí" that names the gourd (Lagenaria vulgaris) that is traditionally used to drink the infusion.
The scientific name Ilex paraguarensis was given by the French naturalist and botanist Auguste de Saint Hilaire in 1822, the tree belongs to the family Aquifoliaceae and grows between the parallels 10° and 30° (South) in the Paraná and Paraguay rivers basins. It is a plant typical of the Alto Paraná region, Alto Uruguay region and the Argentine NE. It is a tropical or subtropical plant, needing high temperatures, high humidity and up to 1500 mm of annual rain. On average, 300,000 tons of Mate are produced each year.
In the wild, the plant needs about 25 years to develop completely, reaching in that case a height of up to 15 meters.
The leaves are alternated, cuneiform, elliptical or oval, with the border slightly serrated.
It flowers between the months of October and December. The flowers are small, polygamous, dioicous, with calix and corolla in a tetrameric disposition. The fruit resembles a pepper berry. Among several varieties, there are three that are the most important: "angustifolia", "longifolia" and "latifolia".
Mate has a characteristic mature flavor which is somewhat sweet, bitter, withered leaf like, and alfalfa-like, similar to that obtained from tea (Camellia sinensis). Of the 196 volatile chemical compounds found in Yerba Mate, 144 are also found in tea.
The infusions of Ilex paraguarensis are less astringent than those made of tea.
It is used in popular medicine and employed in commercial herbal preparations as a stimulant to the central nervous system, a diuretic, and an antirheumatic .
Some Guaraní words related to Mate:
Barbacuá: from mbarambacuá = ma (pile) + ra (euphonic) + mbacuá (toasted or roasted thing)
Caä: Yerba Mate.
Caá-guará: Mate drinker.
Caá-i-guá: Mate gourd (literally: container of the water of Yerba Mate)
Caá-u-ei: thirst of Mate.
Mboroviré: Yerba Mate slightly "canchada" (desiccated and broken)
Sapeca, sambeca or sapeá: pocá, peá or mbecá (to open) + za or sá (eye) = to open the globules or vesicles of the Yerba Mate by the heating process.
Ticuá cá ay: "cebar el Mate" (literally: to throw water in the hole)
1.Kawakami, M. and Kobayashi, A.; Volatile Constituents of Green Mate and Roasted Mate, J.Agric.Food Chem. 39, 1275 (1991)
2.Gosmann, G., Schenkel, E.P. and Seligmann, O.; A New Saponin from Mate, Ilex Paraguarensis, J.Nat.Pbod. 52(6), 1367 (1989)
3.Vazques, A. and Moyna, P.; Studies on Mate Drinking, J. Ethnopharmacology 18, 267 (1986)