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Mate is the inseparable companion of Uruguayans and a warm welcoming gesture for those just arriving. The yerba based tea infusion is a stimulant.
Mate is a drink made by infusing “yerba mate” (dehydrated and shredded leaves of the Illex Paraguyensis shrub) and is one of the more emblematic and common traditions of Uruguayan society.
The custom of using a thermos instead of a kettle to prepare the infusion was a Uruguayan initiative allowing the ritual to move beyond the confines of home. This way, as it is today, mate could be enjoyed in almost any public space and this has now become very illustrative of the quotidian Uruguayan lifestyle.
Surely, anybody who has ever seen Uruguayans outside of the country will have noticed that they were not without their thermos and mate, inseparable companions no matter the time of year.
- History: The origins of this drink can be traced back to precolonial times in indigenous Guarani culture. Since the 17th century, while tea culture predominated Europe, in South America, mate was spreading. Originally, mate was the companion of the lonely cattle rancher. Wild, bitter and green it would be the faithful companion in times of solitude as well as times of joy. As time passed, mate would make it to the cities where today drinking mate is an everyday sight all over our country as well as in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.
Its Use: Depending on the time and place or with whom we’re drinking with, mate takes on different meanings. It could be to quell an appetite, or just to kill some time. Mate follows the students with their studies and accompanies reunions with family and friends or work mates. It holds an element of communion and a is a symbol of warm welcome to greet visitors with. Mate is usually shared and it’s custom to use the same gourd and the same bombilla, passing the warm tea on from one person to the next, which may very well separate this stimulating warm drink from other infusions like tea or coffee.