The History of Mate
Many countries in South America consider mate their national and historic achievement. Disagreements continue to rise in scientific circles till nowadays, but less attention is paid to significance and popularity of this tea.
The origins are an object of disputes in contradiction to how mate distributed across the centuries. Thus, it is already confirmed that mate was highly evaluated and even exported overseas after Spanish colonization.
There are several legends of how mate appeared in South America, and the states, Argentina and Paraguay in particular, stand by different ones. The main similarity is that mate tea was a gift from supernatural being or some wizard to common people.
Spanish Period in South America
The turning point in mate history is recorded during Spanish conquest, complemented with intervene of Christianity and priests in traditional livelihood of Indians. In practice, the main idea of colonists and Spanish monarchs was to fasten the distribution of Catholic Church, represented by various orders, including Dominicans, Jesuits, Franciscans, etc. In most of the cases, the traditions and customs of indigenous people were abolished or persecuted in violent manner. Mate is one of the examples. It was claimed “the Devil’s drink” by one of the prominent conquistadors, Diego de Torres, who later equalized punishment of mate consumption to heresy.
However, priests saw the reverse side of the medal. They enjoyed the drink, prepared by local Guarani people, and even started an export of mate to European countries. Frightening accusations of the conquistadors were undermined by a great opportunity of getting money. The production of mate required less finances that it could promise if trading. Paraguayan merchants followed a simple scheme of mate export to firstly Spain and then other monarchies in the Old World.
Mate in Europe
Nevertheless, popularity of mate in Europe did not last long, as regular revolutions and international wars in Latin America in the 19th century obstructed normal supply. In addition, it was a period of coffee advancement that became a great competitor of mate tea. It is possible to note that European countries picked sides between these two.
At present, mate has international popularity and is sold and purchased everywhere. Both luxuriant restaurants in Asuncion and small cafes in Paraguayan villages serve mate, which, by the way, has a specific culture of drinking (using gourds, various recipes, the temperature of tea, etc.) Reasonably, sate is usually the first thing associated with Paraguay. If visiting this country, mate is a must keepsake, considering low prices and a wide range of choice.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Kruk, an author for VisitParaguay.net