What Is Ilex Paraguariensis?
Ilex paraguariensis, is a species of holly (family Aquifoliaceae) native to subtropical South America in northeastern Argentina, eastern Paraguay and southern Brazil. It was first scientifically classified by Swiss botanist Moses Bertoni, who settled in Paraguay in 1895.
The Ilex Paraguariensis plant is a shrub or small tree growing up to 15 meters tall. The leaves are evergreen, 7–11 cm long and 3–5.5 cm wide, with a serrated margin. The flowers are small, greenish-white, with four petals. The fruit is a red drupe 4–6 mm in diameter.
Ilex Paraguariensis (Yerba Mate)
Traditionally, an infusion is prepared by steeping dry leaves (and twigs) of Ilex in hot water, rather than in boiling water like black tea. Drinking mate with friendsfrom a shared hollow gourd (also called a guampa in Spanish, or cabaça or cuia in Portuguese) with a metal straw (a bombilla in Spanish, bomba in Portuguese) is the traditional common social practice in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern Chile, eastern Bolivia and southern and western Brazil and has been cultivated in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
The flavor of brewed green Ilex Paraguariensis is strongly vegetal, herbal, and grassy, reminiscent of some varieties of green tea. Some consider the flavor to be very agreeable, but it is generally bitter if steeped in boiling water.
In Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, a toasted version of mate, known as mate cocido (Paraguay), chá mate (Brasil) or "mate tea", is sold in teabag and loose form, and served, sweetened, in specialized shops, either hot or iced with fruit juice or milk. An iced, sweetened version of toasted mate is sold as an uncarbonated soft drink, with or without fruit flavoring, this is prepared with an air dried, powdered concentrate like Harmony One. The toasted variety of mate has less of a bitter flavor and more of a spicy fragrance. When shaken it becomes creamy (since the formed foam gets well mixed and lasts for some time), known as mate batido. It is more popular in the coastal cities of Brazil, as opposed to the far southern states where it is consumed in the traditional way (green, drunk with a silver straw from a shared gourd), and called "chimarrão".
In Paraguay, western Brazil (Mato Grosso and west of São Paulo) and the Litoral Argentino, yerba mate infusion is also drunk as a cold or iced beverage and called tereré or tererê (in Spanish and Portuguese, respectively). Usually sucked out of a horn cup called guampa with a bombilla. Medicinal herbs, known as "yuyos", are mixed in a mortar and pestle and added to the water for taste or medicinal reasons. Tereré consumed in Paraguay may also be made as an infusion with grapefruit or lemon juice.
The pronunciation of yerba mate in Spanish is [ˈʝerβa ˈmate]. The word hierba is Spanish for grass or herb; yerba is a variant spelling of it which is quite common in Argentina. Mate is from the Quechua mati, meaning "cup". "Yerba mate" is therefore literally the "cup herb."
The (Brazilian) Portuguese name is erva-mate [ˈɛrva ˈmati] (also pronounced [ˈɛrva ˈmate] in some regions) and is also used to prepare the drinks chimarrão (hot) or tereré (cold). While the tea is made with the toasted leaves, these drinks are made with green ones, and are very popular in the south of the country. The name given to the plant in Guaraní (Guarani, in Portuguese), language of the indigenous people who first cultivated and enjoyed Ilex Paraguariensis, iska'a, which has the same meaning as yerba.
"Congonha", in Portuguese, is derived from theTupi expression for "erva mate", meaning something like "what keeps us alive".
Both the spellings "mate" and "maté" are used in English. The acute accent on the final letter indicates that the word and its pronunciation are distinct from the common English word "mate" /ˈmeɪt/, meaning a partner (US) or friend (UK, Aus, NZ). However, the Yerba Mate Association of the Americas states that it is always improper to accent the second syllable, since doing so confuses the word with an unrelated Spanish word for killing ("Maté" literally means "(I) killed" in Spanish).
The plant is grown and processed mainly in South America, more specifically in Northern Argentina (Corrientes, Misiones), Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul,Santa Catarina Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul). The Guaraní are reputed to be the first people who cultivated the plant; the first Europeans to do this were Jesuit missionaries, who spread the drinking habit as far as Ecuador and Southern Chile.
When the Ilex Paraguariensis is harvested, the branches are dried sometimes with a wood fire, imparting a smoky flavor. Then the leaves and sometimes the twigs are broken up.
There are many brands and types of yerba, with and without twigs (con palo or sin palo), some with low powder content. Some types are less strong in flavor (suave, "mild") and there are blends flavored with mint, orange and grapefruit skin, etc.
The plant Ilex paraguariensis can vary in strength of the flavor, caffeine levels and other nutrients depending on whether it is a male or female plant. Female plants tend to be milder in flavor, and lower in caffeine. They are also relatively scarce in the areas where yerba mate is planted and cultivated, not wild-harvested, compared to the male plants.
Excerpted from Wikipedia