Argentine Tea: The Tradition of Mate
Argentine mate tea: a centuries-old tradition. The art of making this special infusion drink has its origins in the times of the South American natives, who drank mate tea already in the colonization. Since the 19th century, the bitter tea drink, which is made from the dried leaves of the mate bush, has been cultivated primarily in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.
Sharing mate among friends or family is considered a sign of hospitality. Argentine mate tea, through its traditional preparation, provides for fixed rituals at get-togethers. Embark on a fascinating journey through South America and discover this different way of drinking tea.
Mate Tea: Traditional Use and Production
Mate tea occupies a special social role in South American usage. Through centuries of tradition, the enjoyment of tea has become part of everyday life, especially in the countries where mate is produced. Mate can therefore be drunk anytime and anywhere and always leaves a feeling of conviviality. Hotels provide guests with thermos flasks of hot water, and locals prepare everything they need at home to make fresh mate tea whenever they are out and about. You can find the South American feeling of well-being, for example, in our TEEKANNE Start Your Day with mate.
Mate is one of the teas whose fermentation is stopped during the manufacturing process. This is done by first cutting off the complete branches of the mate bush and then turning the mate herbs (“la yerba”) in wire drums over a fire. The process thus differs for selection from other teas, where only the leaves are collected and processed. The enzymes found in the leaves are destroyed so that fermentation is halted. There are several varieties of mate, called either green mate (“taragin”) or roasted mate (“chá mate”). In the green variety, the leaves are fermented at 50 to 60 °C for over a month and then heated to over 400 °C for about one minute.
There is also a difference in which country the mate comes from, as the leaves are crushed for Argentine mate, while the leaves are finely ground for Brazilian mate. The mate herbs have in common that they taste bitter: the better the leaves, the more bitter they are. In the meantime, there are many other varieties that are particularly mild, for example, or are refined with other herbs, such as mint.
Mate Tea: This is Part of a Traditional Ceremony.
Mate tea is brewed differently than classical tea. Similar to the Japanese tea ceremony, a number of specific rules are followed in the preparation of this tea. Certain tools are important for this: the calabash (“la calabaza”) – a vessel made from a hollowed and dried pumpkin – and a certain drinking straw (“la bombilla”).
The ritual preparation includes the cebador. This is the only person responsible for the mate tea. In the traditional preparation, for example in Argentina, the water is heated to about 80 °C over a fire. Meanwhile, the cebador fills the calabash with two-thirds of the mate herbs, covers the vessel and shakes it. This distributes the tea leaves in the vessel. The water is then poured in slowly until the mate herbs are covered and floating lightly in the water. The drinking straw, which has fine holes at the bottom, is then inserted into the vessel to drink. The holes filter out the loose mate herbs.
The cebador begins the drinking ceremony first, passing the calabash around so that everyone can take a sip. The tea water is refilled again and again until the taste of the herbs is washed out (“lavador”). Only then does the cebador finish the round. To do this, he scrapes the herbs from the vessel and then washes it out. With the addition of sugar, the mate tea can also be sweetened. Try this traditional tea on your trip to South America and let yourself be enchanted by the delightful taste.
Another option is to enjoy our TEEKANNE teas with mate. For the infusion of our teas, unlike in the traditional production, bubbling boiling water is needed. In addition, we always use selected fine cuts of each raw material to produce a high quality food. Taste our teas with the unique mate flavor and experience South America up close.