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The History of Its Early Discovery in Paraguay,

Its Preparation in that Country and in

Brazil, and Its Introduction into

THE United States,

briefly told by


Foreig-n Department, Philadelphia Commercial Museum;

Editor of the Proceedings of the International

Commercial Congress, etc.




Library of Qongr^s^
Office u1 the


liiegisUr of Copyrlght^i


Copyright, igoo,


The Verba Mate Tea Co.,

fiecoWB COPY


I HE purp(
I known

purpose of this little book is to make
to the American people the excellent
qualities of Yerba IMat'e Tea.

Without disparaging anv of the pleasing
beverages which find such wide acceptance in
this country, we wish to make this unique claim
for Mate, based upon the highest scientific au-
thority : it is the only beverage which leaves
absolutely no bad after effects upon those who
drink it in large or small quantities, it combines
all the good qualities of coffee and Chinese or
Japanese tea, but is almost entirely devoid of
empyreumatic or essential oils, which act as
irritants upon the human system.

Here, then, we have an ideal drink — one
that is delightful to the taste, when once we have
become accustomed to it ; one that promotes di-
gestion, gives immediate strength to the body
and brain and acts soothingly upon the nervous

The ladies will be especially interested to
know that it exercises absolutely no bad effects
upon the complexion, 'x

We have endeavored to sketch briefly the
history of Yerba Mate, its preparation for mar-
ket, its adoption as a national drink by over



20,000, oco people, its introduction into this country !
through the International Commercial Congress, |
and have also described some of the curious and
picturesque customs which are observed in con- j
nection with its consumption in its native home. 1
It is especially noteworthy that those who drink
the most Mate drink the least alcohol— in fact,
they do not feel the necessity for alcoholic bever- ;
ages at all. Yerba Mate Tea is one of the great- i
est natural aids to temperance the world has ever
known. During the hot summer weather it is
the most cooling and refreshing drink imaginable./

We call especial attention to the analyses
presented and also to the words of wisdom from j
medical men, scientists and others. If their ;
testimony is worth anything there can be no
doubt that a new factor in the well-being of our ■
people now awaits their general acceptance. ■




^TlSTORY tells us that the discovery of the
IN western world was closely followed by
V^ the sending of missionaries to the be-
nighted aborigines inhabiting its vast area. The
Jesuit Fathers who made their way through the
wilds of South America, up the great river into
Paraguay, found the native Indians or Guaranys
industriously chewing the leaves of a shrub
which grew luxuriantly in those parts and which
the learned botanists afterwards named Ilex
Para^uensis. . The Indians called it mate, and
also drank a decoction made from its leaves.

As these dusky sons of the forest were able
to withstand to an amazing degree all kinds of
hardships, going without solid food for days at
a time, the Jesuits concluded that the shrub
which was prized so highlv and used so exten-
sively must possess valuable properties. They


tlierefore tried the mate and found it very good.
In fact, it occured to them that while they had
come to teach the aborigines, the latter had also
been able to show them something in return.

So the holy fathers enjoyed the mew and
beneficial beverage and introduced it to their
countrymen who came after them. They estab-
lished mate plantations and carefully studied the
properties and cultivation of the plant. They
were the^ first to discover that drying or roasting
gave it a delicate aroma and imparted to it new
and valuable properties.

A century or so later the Portuguese also dis-
covered mate forests or yefbales, as they are
called, in the southern part of Brazil, in territory
adjacent to Paraguay. The zone of mate pro-
duction has since been shown to embrace almost
the whole of Paraguay and the States of Rio
Grande. Santa Catharina, Parana, and Matto
Grosso in Brazil. Nowhere else has the wonder-
ful shrub or tree been found, however, and the
two countries, Brazil and Paraguay, thus have a
monopoly of the supply of Verba Mate, which
is also popularly known as Paraguay tea.

Gathering Alate.



f ET us now see, for a moment, by what process
I Yerba Male is brought from the yerbale to
i ^ ^ the consumer.

Although mate appears to have been used
from time immemorial by the Indians, the Jesuits
were the first to attempt its cultivation. This
was commenced at their branch missions in
Paraguay and the province of Rio Grande do
Sue, where some plantations still exist. Under
cultivation the plant remains a shrub with
numerous stems instead of forming, as in the
wild state, a tree with a rounded head and
leaves from six to eight inches long. Cultivation
is not necessary to produce the best mate, the
secret being rather in the preparation of the
leaves and stems after they have been gathered.

In Paraguay, for many years, the Indians,
employed for that purpose under contracts sanc-
tioned by the government, collected the yerba


mate. They traveled in companies of about 25,
erectinjj; their wigwams in the yerbales and set-
tling down to a stay of five or six months, begin-
ning usually in December. Their first operation
was to prepare an open space about six feet square
in which the surface of the soil was beaten hard
and smooth with mallets. The leafy branches
of the mate were then cut down and placed in
the clearing where they underw ent a preliminary
roasting from a fire kindled around it. An arch
of poles, or of hurdles, was then erected above
it, on which the mate was placed, a fire being
lighted underneath. This part of the process
demanded great care, since by it the leaves had
to be rendered brittle enough to be easily pulver-
ized and the aroma had also to be developed, the
amount of heat necessary being learned by ex-
perience. . After drying, the leaves were reduced
to a coarse powder in mortars formed of pits in
the earth well rammed.

More recently other methods of preparing the
mate have also been employed. The govern-
ment still controls some yerbales and permission
to gather is granted
to those who carry
on the mate indus-
try. The Indians
in Paraguay, and
the natives, or
other laborers, in
Brazil, are sent into
the forests at the
proper season to

Roastiiior Mate


gather the leaves and small branches most suit-
able for making the tea. As will be seen from
the accompanying illustrations, which are from
actual photographs, the mate is brought out of
the yerbales to a place where temporary shelters
have been erected. In these rude huts or cabins,
a portion is set apart as a place of storage while
in another part apparatus for roasting the leaves
and stems is set up. This consists principally
of large copper pans under which a slow fire is
built. After being properly roasted, the product
is put in long bags, and stored under an addi-
tional shelter secute from the rain. The bags
are next put in a larger store-house and from
this they are started on their way to the mills by
means of ox-teams, or on mule or horseback. In
fact, various modes of transportation are usually
necessary before the final destination is reached,
including shipment by flat-boats or lighters on
the rivers.

A first-class mate mill employs as high as
thirty men and can turn out daily, between 80
and 90 barrels of about 250 pounds each. The
product of the mills is taken and marketed by a
few large concerns who control the entire output.




'7T, DESCRIPTION and comparison of the
kT drinkinj^; habits of the various nations of
V^the earth would no doubt prove highh'
interesting and instructive. Nearly every coun-
try has its so-called national drink, and in almost
every instance it is an intoxicant. Where it is
not an intoxicant it is something else whose ex-
cessive use entails serious consequences.

Yerba mate is the only exception to the
general rule. It is the nati(^nal drink in Para-
guay, the Argentine Republic and Uruguay, and
is largely consumed also in Chile, Southern
Brazil, and in other South American republics,
so that it has lately been estimated that over
20,000,000 people drink it regularly. And yet
the testimony is unanimous that no one ever suf-
fer;^ any bad effects
from it, even though
they should drink it
excessively. Awriter
in a recent issue of
" O Mercurio'' of
Rio de Janeiro, sa\s:

Cnrryiny MaU- to Tem]ioraiy Storehoiipe.


" If the reader has traveled tor some davs
through the Argentine countries, Uruguay, or
our States, where the consumption of mate has
the preference, or rather where it is the onlv
beverage, he will have noticed the liveliness,
healthy freshness, and good physical condition
of the people of those regions. This excellent
disposition of human nature cannot be attributed
to the influence of the climate only, nor to the
food and alimentation, and still less to the race
itself. There exists nevertheless a factor in this
well-being; what may it be? The water? it
is possible that the precious liquid of these regions
is superior, for instance, to that of Rio de Janeiro.
To the solid food? And what is the precise
difference, the typical difference, if it may be
called such, between the solid food used by those
people and the rest of our country, after deduct-
ing the climatic requirements? The climate?
But this physical well-being is not in any way
peculiar to certain climates; if it were so, these
paradise-like regions would be overpopulated.
There is, therefore, an element. Let us find it.
In these regions coffee is very little used, tea is
drank but rarely, alcohol is entirely abstained
from, but above all these beverages mate is used
to a degree which would amount to excess, if it
were not for its therapeutic qualities."

Yerba mate tea is taken by infusion like
ordinary tea or coffee. In South America there
exists a curious and picturesque manner of
drinking it, by means of the cuya and bombilla,
which is highly esteemed by all the people, in-


eluding those of the best society. When i
had the honor, a tew weeks ago, of calling
upon the Brazilian Minister at \^'ashington,
a very scholarly and dignified as well as
affable gentleman, he had his servant bring
his cuya to show me how he preferred to
take mate himself, every day, in accordance
with the custom of his country.

The cuya is a small calabash, made of a

Ti-ansportiug- Mate in Ox-Qa


gourd-like fruit whose scientific name it is not *■

necessary to give here. It is about the size of I

a large orange and has a tapering end which |

serves for a handle. There are other cuyas, i

however, without handles, and of slightly '

flattened or other odd shapes. All the cuyas 'i

are ornamented, the cheaper ones having
figures roughly traced upon them as if made ,■


with a hot iron. The finer kind have inscriptions,
figures of saints, pretty women, animals, etc.,
carved upon them, and are silver, or even gold,

In the top of the cuya is a circular hole about
the size of a silver half-dollar, and through this
opening the tea is drawn by means of a bombilla.
This in-
of a small
tube, six
or seven
of metal,
with a
bulb at
one end
perf r-
ated with
holes so
as to pre-

Drink Verba Mate
and be happy."

vent the
of tea
drawn up
into the
mate is
placed in
the cuya.
water is
then add-
ed, and
if desired

and milk to suit the taste. Many prefer to take
the mate clear, however, claiming for it a higher
efficiency in promoting health and strength. The
cuya, being duly prepared, is passed around to
those present and all partake of the beverage, as
a rule through the same bombilla, just as the
calumet is handed around among the North



American Indians. It is tlie universal sign of
hospitality to offer mate in this manner. It is,
however, also drank from cups, the same as
other tea or coffee, especially in the large cities
and at social functions, as appears from the
drawing reproduced from a Rio de Janeiro pub-

In concluding this chapter I cannot do better
than to quote the following bit of description by
Senhor Affonso Arnoldo
Rutis, of Sao Paulo, Bra-
zil :

" During my frequent
travels in the South Amer-
ican republics, 1 had plent\'
of opportunity to make
observations on the con-
sumption of yerba mate
tea. I remember, for in-
stance, a trip from Santa
Anna do Livremento, on
the boundary of Brazil,
to Montevideo, which I
made on horseback, ac-
complishing the whole journey through Uruguav
in seven days. At every halting point, and
wherever I changed horses, the little tea-kettle
was taken from the pack-horse, water was
heated and the mate tea prepared in the cuya,
after which the bombilla was quickly put in,
and the splendid, refreshing beverage served
about four or five times in turn to everyone. No
drink could be more strengthening to the nerves

.Senhor Rutis.



and the system, and at the same time serve to cool
the perspiration caused by riding, like this one.

" Every one of my camaradas had in his
pocket a small bag full of this >erba mate ; his
cuya and bombilla never left him, and even if
they could not get anything to eat, these good
sons of the pampas were satisfied with their tea.
And what a ride ! We rode from i6 to i8 hours
per day, and I am convinced that we were in-
debted for the necessary strength to accomplish
this only to the tea above mentioned.

" Three times we were fortunate enough,
in the evening, to be very kindly received and
sheltered in the so-called ' Estancias.' After the
customary salutation, ' Blessed be the name of
Mary,' and the answer on the part of the host,
' Now and evermore, Amen,' the horses were
left to the care of the servants and we entered
the ' pateo,' and often the best room in the
house, where the whole family circle was assem-
bled, to whom strangers like ourselves appeared
to be something quite special.

" Not a word was spoken, neither were any
questions asked as to our names, or the whence
and whereto of our journey. The head of the
house puts down his cigarette ; a man-servant
or maid appears with the cuya and the bombilla,
and after first taking a sip in order to see whether
the tea has been properly prepared, if there is
sugar enough in it, and if it is not too strong, it
is presented to the head of the family.

"With perfect calmness and evident enjoy-
ment expressed in his face, our host sips the


contents, gives the cuya back to the servant, who
adds more hot water, and in this way the cup
is passed from one to the other. Not a word is
spoken in the meantime until every member of
the family has enjoyed the beverage.

" Only after everyone has been favored with
a drink, our host begins his questions as to the
whence, whereto and purpose of the trip, what is
being done in the ' Capita!,' what heads are in
government, etc, and his eyes sometimes flash,
and his fingers bend themselves as though they
would grasp his long knife, if this or that in-
formation is either agreeable or otherwise. After
the questions have been put and replied to, you
are asked to come to the table and yerba mate is
the beverage served here also.

" On those occasions it is due to this bev-
erage that digestion is so quickly, agreeably and
rationally performed, for very often the privations
previously endured do not make digestion a very
easy matter.

" Afterwards we are taken to our rooms,
and before retiring the tea is served again in the
cuya, and refreshing sleep comes soon and
strengthens us for the next journey.

" Outside, round the big fire, are the ' Ar-
rieiros,' who are obliged to spend an hour, before
starting off on the journey, in catching the horses
by means of lassos. The night is beautiful but
cool, and the chief consolation of these good
children of the plains is that they may in the
meantime sip their yerba mate.

" At last we arrive at the railway station ;



the water is boiling in the refreshment-room and
again everyone unpacks his cuya and drinks his
ma'e. And thus it goes at every station. Eat-
ing is quite a secondary matter, as long as the
bag is provided with mate.

" Hov/ many times have I seen in the Cor-
dilleras, soldiers, miners, guanaco-hunters, who
were perfectly content to have for many days
nothing but a hard piece of bread or a piece of
dried beef, being indebted to the mate for
strength, health and power of endurance.
" If one goes up the Parana River,
by steamer, and looks into a third-class
cabin, one sees a whole circle assembled
around the kettle of boiling water, the tea

South Americau Mate Reception.

Chinese Despair.

From a .South American


in the cuya, and in this way they remain

together for hours, drinking their tea and

telling stories.

" But the yerba mate is not enjoyed by the

lower classes only. It is used in every good

family, as high as the head of the State. The

only difference is that it may be served in cups

instead of the cuya. It is not a mere custom to

drink this tea, but it is a beverage which is

equalled by none in its beneficial influence on the

health, and in its strength-giving properties, for

in the favorable composition of the yerba mate

are to be found the reasons for its aid to digestion

and soothing influence on the nerves.

" As regards your question what general
effect this tea has on the people, I give it as
my well-based opinion that it is the best means
ol preventing the use of alcoholic drinks, as well
as a means of creating moderate habits and
strengthening the constitution. It is very well
known that sugar serves to build up the bones,
and, combined with mate, it gives energy to the
body and settles the nervous system. 1 myself
am indebted to the constant use of mate for
calming the action of the heart, and a great
many other people have expressed themselves
in a similar manner,"




THE twentieth century will see the people ot
the United States enjoying the benefits of
yerba mate tea throughout the length and
breadth of the land.

For this privilege, and for the enormous
addition to its vital energies, our country will
be largely indebted to the Phila-
delphia Commercial Museum,

A Speech on Mate before the
Commercial Congrress.

and to the
which was held under its auspices in October,
1899. At this Congress thirty-eight foreign
governments, and several hundred chambers of
commerce in all parts of the world, were repre-
sented by delegates. Their deliberations received
the approval of the President of the United States,



in his annual message, and they themselves his
personal felicitations at a special reception given
in their honor.

The main object of the International Com-
mercial Congress was to extend the commercial
relations between the United States and other
nations, to remove trade disabilities, and bring
the business men of the whole world into closer
touch with each other. Many excellent sugges-
tions were made and resolutions adopted. Among
the speeches most attentively listened to were
several from South American delegates in which
they called attention to verba mate and the bless-
ings which the use of this tea would bring to the
people of the United States.

Captain J. Cordeiro da Graca, government
delegate from Brazil, said among other things :
" The principal product of Parana is mate tea—
a beverage with all the good qualities of coffee
and tea without having any of their defects.
This article is exported in
farge quantities to Chile
and the River Plate repub-
lics. It is a very strong
aid to digestron and has
no bad effect upon the
nervous system, upon
which it acts very sooth-
higly. The mate alone
will tend to lengthen the
life of all those who use
ft. I recommend this good
article to all Americans

Capt. da Graca.


and especially to those who wish to have a

wholesome beverage, which is splendidly adapted

also for children and wet nurses."

Serior Carlos R. Santos, government dele-
gate from Paraguay, declared: "Verba mate,

Paraguayan tea {Ilex

Paraguensis), made from

the leaves of a shrub which

are pulverized or simply

cured as other tea, affords

a drink known by the

name of ' yerba mate' all

through South America,

where the people drinking

it number over 20,000,000.

Mate tea is recommended

for its hygienic, nutritious

and invigorating proper-
ties by scientific journals

and notabilities, and that

its general use in the United States depends

solely upon its becoming more widely known

is a fact beyond a doubt."

Not only the foreign delegates, however,

tut -representatives of the United States, who
attended the Congress, declared that
' they knew the good qualities of this
tea from personal experience while
in their country's service down in
South America. Among these was
Hon. Eugene Seeger, United States
Consul-General at Rio de Janeiro,
who said: "in the neighborhood

Seuor Santos.

Hon. Eugene Seeger.

of 20,000,000 people use
verba mate tea. It is the
favorite drink of tlie Ar-
gentines, the Uruguayans and
the Brazilians. The tea strength-
ens your body, brain and nerves,
and enables you to endure all
kinds of hardships. It has no unpleasant
after effects, and I should like to see it
given to our soldiers. I think it would
be of great advantage to the troops in
the Philippines or those who are stationed in
Cuba or Porto Rico."

Mr. Seeger, in a report made to the State
Department at Washington, and published in
the Consular Reports for January, igoo, again
expresses himself strongly upon the subject. He
says :

" For various reasons the import of mate
into the United States ought to be encouraged.
It is pre-eminently a temperance drink, and the
temperance societies in the United States could
do a very useful work by helping to popularize
it. The great masses of Uruguay and Argen-
tine, — including the famous gauchos (cowboys)
of the great prairies, who use it constantly,



instead of water, tea or coffee, — hardly ever use
alcoholic stimulants. It is almost incredible what
hardships they undergo and how vigorous they
are, while often for a successive number of days
they use nothing to sustain them but mate."

These, and many other warm expressions
from the highest possible sources, led to the
formation of the Yerba Mate Tea Company,
for the purpose of introducing the tea to the
people of the United States and Canada. Con-
tracts have been made whereby this company
handles the entire output for these two countries.

Transporting Yerl)a Mate in Lighters.



IN the scientific and technical laboratories
of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum

many tests are annually made with special
reference to the industrial value of given pro-
ducts, and merchants and others in foreign coun-
tries continually send samples of exportable goods
in order that the Museum may report on their
usefulness for the American market. It was
quite natural, therefore, that this great institution
shou'-i le requested to pass upon the merits of
yerba mate tea.

There had been many previous analyses in
South America, and some in Europe, of yerba
mate, but none in this country of which there
was any record. Hundreds of Europeans and
Americans, who traveled in the southern hemi-
sphere and enjoyed their mate there, brought
back, from time to time, the highest opinion of
the beverage. Humbolt and Darwin, among


Online LibraryWilliam Mill ButlerYerba maté tea: the history of its early discovery in Paraguay → online text (page 1 of 2)