Mate – History and Traditions

On the blog this week Fazendeiros, we explore an ancient plant from South America – ‘yerba mate‘, also known as ‘erva-mate‘ in Brazil.

What is Mate?

Mate is a South American herbal ‘tea’ that consists of just two ingredients – yerba mate and hot water!

Derived from the plant ilex paraguariensis, this natural herb is native to the lands of South America. Indigenous in its natural growing habitat, mate’s roots are beyond those of a literal sense.

Ilex paraguariensisthe plant from which mate is made

Originally consumed by inhabitants of Southern Brazil and Paraguay, it became increasingly popular across South America in the 16th and 17th century. Neighbouring countries Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Peru embraced the benefits of this immune-boosting herb; rich in antioxidants and caffeine.

The Tradition of Drinking Mate

Traditionally shared by the gauchos when gathering round an asado or churrasco (open-pit barbecue), mate has held its position in the deep-rooted culture of many South Americans.

In the true Latin-American fashion, this tradition is yet another example of the importance of community. Integral to the gaúcho culture, mate is to be shared with family, friends and loved ones – although we’ve had it plenty of times when studying; oh those university years! It’s typical for the gourd and bombilla (the metal ‘straw’) to be passed around in one direction, returning the same way that it came.

A modern-day gaúcho enjoying mate

The hollowed out gourd is used to drink mate comes in all different shapes and styles. Lagenaria siceraria (known as a calabash) is the fruit from which the gourd is made once dried.

You could just drink it out of a mug, but where’s the fun in that? There is also the specific straw, known as a Bombilla which has a filter at the base keeping out any stems or leaves. And yes – it’s just usual for all to share the same!

Preparing Mate at Home

Before starting, make sure you have cleaned your gourd and bombilla for a fresher taste!


1. Bring your water to the boil

2. Fill your gourd to about 2/3 full with the leaves

3. Cover the gourd with your hand, tilt and give it a shake to loosen the leaves (this is so your Bombilla doesn’t get clogged and brings the small stems to the top)

4. Lay the bombilla filter side down, while still tilted

5. Pour in some cold water to prepare for the infusion. Now fill up your gourd with hot (*never* boiling) water

We asked our MD Tomás Maunier to share with us how he usually makes it at home…

Now, we know that our current circumstances don’t allow for the usual passing around of this natural herbal delight. However, you can definitely try this one at home in preparation for those much awaited gatherings!

If you’re curious to try this at home, we would love to see you share it on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, Fazendeiros.