Thursday, June 25, 2009

YERBA MATE :: The Guarani Legend


"In this new beverage you will find healthy company, even in the sad hours of the cruelest solitude."

Guarani tribes of Paraguay worked the land and became excellent craftsmen. They believed that the tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, bearded God (Pa'i Shume) who descended from the skies, unlocked the secrets of health and medicine for them. Pa'i Shume revealed the healing qualities of native plants and taught them sound agricultural practices.

One of the most important of these secrets was how to harvest and prepare the leaves of the YERBA MATE tree. The MATE infusion was meant to ensure health, vitality and longevity.

Guarani would clear the forest, plant MANDIOCA (manioc) and CHOCLO (corn), but after four or five years the soil would be worn out and the tribe had to move on. Tired of moving, an old Guarani refused to on go. The youngest of his daughters, Jary stayed with her father. This gesture of love deserved a prize. One day, a shaman arrived and asked Jary what she wanted in order to feel happy. The girl asked for nothing, but the old man said, "I want strength to go on and to help reunite Jary with the tribe."

The shaman gave the old man a very green plant, perfumed with kindness, and told him to plant it, pick the leaves, dry them on fire, put the pieces in a gourd, add hot or cold water and sip the infusion. The shaman left saying "In this new beverage you will find healthy company, even in the sad hours of the cruelest solitude."

Thus was born the "ka-รก" beverage (MATE) that the white people would later adopt and call YERBA MATE in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay. In Brazil, it is called chimarrao.

Sipping the green sap, helped the old man recover and resume their long journey towards his kinsmen. The whole tribe adopted the habit of drinking the green herb, bitter or sweet, that gave strength and courage.

MATE became the most common ingredient in household cures of the Guarani, and remains so to this day. In Argentina, a TGI consumer survey reports that 92% of Argentine households consume YERBA MATE. Given the consumption rate, it is clearly a phenonmenon that spans all socio-economic levels and is a very democratic national TRADITION. Its use has also been introduced into Lebanon and Syria, particularly among the Druze minority.

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