The origins of Mate

The origins of Mate

September 10, 2020

The origins of mate: An amazing journey. 

The consumption of mate is now well established in the habits of the South Americans. More particularly in countries where mate leaves grow abundantly: in Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia. Mate carries a more-than-interesting historical baggage, which makes its consumption almost ceremonial.

The Guarani: A strong nation 

The consumption of mate began centuries ago. In fact, it was the Guaraníes who were the first users and consumers. The first trace of this ethnic group circles back to the 5th century, at the time of their first encounter with Europeans. At that time, their population numbered more than 400,000 individuals. The first villages were made up of shared houses of about 10 to 15 people. These sedentary and agricultural populations communicated using the Guarani language, which is still one of the two official language of Paraguay, with Spanish.  Not surprisingly, they were the first users of mate, knowing that its leaf grows abundantly in these regions. Thus, it was in these nations that mate was discovered and consumed for the first time. The Guarani were not the only people who worshipped mate, the Incas, Charruas and Araucanos also used mate as a tool for barter with the Guarani. Mate had a spiritual value, and all the nations who consumed it genuinely believed it.

Use and method of consumption of mate. 

Mate was used as a bargaining chip. Although it initially had a market value, mate was consumed mainly for its therapeutic virtues, and for its so-called spiritual properties. The Guarani used it as a base for some of their medicines, but also as a drink. When they consumed it, they saw a positive impact on their good mood and well-being. As for the method of consumption, the Guarani consumed mate in two different ways. Firstly, some of them chewed it directly. Otherwise, they infused it by placing the leaves in a "courge", the ancestor of the current calabash (gourd), putting the leaves in it and adding water to make a drink. 

What impact does this baggage have on the modern consumption of mate? 

Although mate was used as a bargaining chip at one time, the important thing to remember is why its consumption was so popular. For the same reasons that mate is so popular today. Indeed, the nations consumed it for its therapeutic virtues, and for the physical benefits that its consumption brought. Today, its consumption is synonymous with sharing, friendship and well-being, just as it was back then!