Mate, or Paraguay Tea, as it is sometimes known, is a South American beverage similar to tea. It is made from the dried leaves of an evergreen shrub belonging to the holly family. Mate, like tea and coffee, is rich in caffeine and acts as both a stimulant and a tonic.
Although mate has been drunk by the Indians from earliest times, the Jesuits were the pioneers in its cultivation. They grew the plant in their various branch missions. This is why mate is sometimes known as Jesuits’ Tea, Tea of the Mission, or St. Bartholomew’s Tea.
Mate is made in a small gourd about the size of a tennis ball, which is always beautifully decorated even by the poorest of families. The dried leaves are put into the gourd and boiling water is then poured over them. When the mate has brewed for a few nimutcs, the liquid is sucked out with a bombilla (a small metal or reed tube 6- to 7-inchcs long, with a bulb at the end made out of fine basket-work or perforated metal, which acts as a filter). The bombillas are often ornately decorated with finely worked silver. The gourd can be refilled with water two or three times, using the same leaves. Sugar and milk are sometimes added to the tea.
Most of the enjoyment of mate is the traditional way in which it is drunk. The gourd is passed round from person to person, which makes its drinking a social occasion.