The origin of the mate can be traced back to the Guaraní natives who used the leaves of the yerba mate tree as a beverage, an object of worship and also as a currency when they exchanged with other peoples.
The conquerors noticed the Guaraní people had greater resistance during their long walks through the jungle after drinking this sacred beverage.
Caá means yerba in the guarani language, but it also means plant and forest. For the Guarani people, the yerba mate tree is the key tree, a gift from the Gods.
The conquerors learned about the use and virtues of Yerba Mate from the Guarani people, and made its consumption spread from their area of origin to the entire Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.
The Guarani natives were perhaps the first ones to drink mate. The Spaniards noticed that they carried a small leather bag, with crushed and toasted leaves, together with their weapons.
They chewed these Yerba Mate leaves, or they used to put them in a gourd and drink the infusion using their teeth as a filter or a hollowed-out cane, known as a bombilla nowadays.
Later, the Jesuits introduced the yerba mate cultivation in the reductions. They contributed to its diffusion, and the beverage started to be known as the “Jesuit tea”.
They were the first ones who were able to germinate the yerba seeds by means of a secret method, which allowed them to grow Yerba Mate to supply the reductions and even market it in other places.
On Sundays and other holidays, after attending a compulsory mass and praying the Holy Rosary, the Guarani people could have some time to relax: they juggled with their horses in the square, while others went out to the field to hunt, where they held skill championships in archery and arrows.
Shared mates, music, singing and dancing were a must, especially among children and young people.
The habit of drinking mate has remained unchanged since ancient times and for five centuries of history. It has become deeply rooted and spread to distant places.