Few of us have heard of the Paraguayan holly plant. Probably because it grows only in South America, in the territories of Argentina and Paraguay. But it is this unpretentious and nondescript plant that gives people mate – or yerbu mate – a drink presented to the Indians by the blue-eyed god Paya Sharume. Mate for many centuries helped first the Indians living in the harsh conditions of the selva, and then the shepherds-gauchos. Now residents of megacities are increasingly resorting to its unique properties, whose life resembles a squirrel running in a wheel. Mate invigorates and warms, soothes and nourishes, and the traditions of drinking it resemble a real ritual – mysterious and charming, like South America itself.
Mate is rightfully considered the oldest drink on earth: as early as the beginning of the seventh millennium BC, South American Indians revered it as a gift from the gods. There is a legend of the Indians of Paraguay about the mat: somehow the blue-eyed god Paya Sharume decided to descend from the Mountain World to Earth to see how people live. He and several of his entourage walked for a long time through the selva, without food and water, until, finally, they saw a lonely hut. It was inhabited by an old man and his wonderfully beautiful daughter. The old man graciously greeted the guests, served his only chicken for supper and prepared a lodging for the night. The next morning, Paya Sharume asked the old man why they lived in such seclusion. After all, a girl of such rare beauty needs a rich groom. To which the old man replied that the beauty of his daughter belongs to the gods. Surprised, Paya Sharume decided to thank the hospitable hosts: he taught the old man how to farm, passed on the knowledge of healing to him, and turned his beautiful daughter into a plant that will help people – not with its beauty, but with useful properties.
In the XNUMXth century, the European colonization of the continent began, and the Spanish Jesuit monks learned about the mat. It was from them that the drink took its historical name “mate”, but this word means dried pumpkin – mati, from which “Paraguayan tea” is drunk. The Guarani Indians themselves called it “yerba”, which means “grass”.
The Jesuits considered the tradition of drinking mate in a circle a diabolical ritual, and the drink itself was considered a potion designed to bewitch and destroy, so the culture of mate-drinking was brutally eradicated. So, Padre Diego de Torres claimed that the Indians drink mate in order to consolidate their collusion with the devil.
However, one way or another, mate as a curiosity began to penetrate into Europe already under the name “Jesuit tea”.
The mother was again remembered in XIX century after a series of liberation revolutions in South America: as a symbol of national identity, he took a place of honor at the table not only of ordinary people, but also of the new aristocracy of Argentina and Paraguay. The salon fashion of drinking mate was born: the taste of a drink in a calabash with a closed lid meant the attitude of a young lady to a gentleman. Sweet mate with honey meant friendship, bitter mate meant indifference, mate with molasses spoke of the longing of lovers.
For simple gauchos and shepherds from the South American selva, mate has always been more than just a drink. He was able to quench his thirst in the midday heat, warm at night, nourish with strength for a new long drive of cattle. Traditionally, gauchos drank bitter mate, strongly brewed – a symbol of a real man, laconic and accustomed to nomadic life. As noted by some researchers of South American traditions, it is better for a gaucho to get up two hours earlier than expected, if only to drink mate slowly.
There are many drinking traditions, all of which are regional in nature.
For Argentina, the main supplier of the drink today, matepita is a family event intended only for a narrow circle of people.
And if you were invited to an evening mate in Argentina, be sure that they trust you and consider you a loved one. It is customary to joke around the table, share news, mate plays the role of a unifying factor, because a pumpkin jug is passed around. The owner of the house personally brews mate and serves it first to the most respected member of the family.
In Paraguay, the first sip of mate is a completely different story: the one who takes it first is considered a fool. Everyone who is present at the mate-drink diligently denies this, however, the one who has such a “fate” will always spit over his shoulder, saying: “I’m not a fool, but the one who neglects him.”
Brazilians, on the other hand, brew mate in a large vat, and the one who pours mate is called “cebador”, that is, “stoker”, by the audience. The stoker ensures that there is always wood and coal in the stove, he is also responsible for ensuring that the guests always have a drink in the bombilla.
Only in the 30s XX century on the mat again drew attention not only in his homeland. European scientists were interested in the fact that Argentine gauchos during long cattle drives can spend a day in the saddle, without rest, under the scorching sun, using only an infusion of Paraguayan holly. In the course of research conducted by the Pasteur Institute in Paris, it turned out that the raw material of an inconspicuous selva plant contains almost all the nutrients and vitamins a person needs daily! Paraguayan holly leaves contain vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamins C, E, P, potassium, manganese, sodium, iron and about 196 more active trace elements! It is this “cocktail” that makes mate an indispensable tool in the fight against chronic fatigue, depression, and neurosis: it invigorates and relieves anxiety at the same time. Mate is simply necessary for people who have problems with pressure: it increases low pressure, and lowers high pressure. And then, mate is a very tasty drink with sweetish and at the same time tart notes.
What is the right way to cook mate? Traditionally, it is cooked in a vessel of dried gourd – South American Indianscall him but to you. In Russia, the name “kalabas” or “calabash” (from the Spanish “pumpkin”) has taken root. It is the pumpkin, having a porous structure, that gives the mat that unique and recognizable flavor.
But before the first mate, the calabash needs to be revived: for this, mate is poured into it (about half of the dry product per calabash), poured with water and left for two to three days. This is done so that the tannins contained in the mat “work through” the porous structure of the gourd and clean it of excess odors. After this time, the pumpkin is cleaned and dried. In general, proper care is necessary for calabash: after each matepita, it must be thoroughly cleaned and dried.
Another necessary element for proper matepiya is the bombilla – a strainer tube through which the drink is slowly sipped. Traditionally, it is made of silver, which perfectly disinfects. Given the South American tradition of drinking mate from one vessel in a circle, this is simply necessary. The stick is immersed in a vessel with a drink, turns towards the drinker. Moving it or pulling it out is simply unacceptable.
And, of course, one cannot fail to mention the pave – a special vessel with a narrow spout in which I heat water for mate. Water, as well as its proper preparation, are important components of a good drink. Water must be brought to a boil, then left to cool to 70-80 degrees. Of course, in the modern world, it is increasingly rare to find a watch for a leisurely mate-drinking, but mate can also be brewed in a regular French press. Of course, the “zest” of drinking will disappear, but this will not affect the beneficial properties of the product. Mate – tea of the Incas and Jesuits, a unique natural cocktail that gives people Paraguayan holly – an unpretentious plant growing in the Argentine selva scorched by the sun; a drink of courageous gauchos and charming Argentine senoritas can be increasingly found on the table of a resident of the metropolis. Of course, within the framework of modern life, where everything is fussy and it is not clear where and why they are in a hurry, there is not always time and opportunity for real mother drinking. However, those who have appreciated calabash and bombilla mate will no longer be able to drink mate prepared in a French press. It’s a kind of blasphemy. Snobbery, you say. Maybe. But how nice, sipping mate through the bombilla, imagine yourself as a brave gaucho, looking into the distance of the harsh selva. PS