Yerba mate is the traditional drink of Paraguay. The first mention of mate was in 1592 by a Spaniard. The Spaniards learned of the yerba mate from the Guarani indians who cultivated and drank it.
In 1864, the Dictator Lopez gave 3000 kilos to King William of Prussia, who later became the Emperor of Germany. The king had admired the Paraguayan military and experimented with yerba mate on his own troops to see if it would make them more efficient. From a royal decree of 1864, doctor's began to study the yerba mate and discovered it to be more effective than coffee or black tea and without the negative side-effects. It contains vitamins, B, B12,E, A, and C.
To drink mate, one needs a cup, called a guampa, a silver straw with a spoon like filter, called a bombilla, and a thermos of water. This will be carried around with you and sharing is socially expected.
In the cold winter months, the mate is made by filling the guampa 2/3 full of yerba and adding hot water. I have yet been able to drink this without burning my mouth on the silver bombilla straw!
In the hot summer months, it is called terere and is made the same but with cold water. They sell cylindrical ice cubes which perfectly into the small thermoses people use.
Another way to prepare it is mate cocido. This is done by boiling the tea and then draining it off and drinking the brew.
The problem is...it all tastes like grass and looks like sticks!
I took this photo Sunday morning at church. You see the thermos, guampa and the silver bombilla. The green grassy looking stuff...yea, thats the mate!