The History of Yerba Mate Tea (1500–2000s)

The History of Yerba Mate Tea, by

The history of yerba mate tea is quite circuitous, reaching great heights of commercial expansion and sharply plummeting to total industry collapse.

Below, I’ve highlighted the major events of mate’s development from the 1500s when Europeans discovered the Guaraní Tribe of Paraná consuming mate, to the 2000s where mate has found footing in the global health conscious revolution, outside of the Southern Cone (Argentina, Southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay).

At the end of the article, we’ve provided an audible presentation of mate’s history.

1500s — The Indigenous Tribes of South America Revered Yerba Mate

The History of Yerba Mate Tea, by

  • Guaraní Tribe of Paraná of Northern Argentina and Tupi People of Southern Brazil consumed yerba mate as a part of their culture.
  • Clay pots were the first mate gourds and hollow twigs were the first bombillas.
  • 1592 Governor of Paraguay finds “kaá” (yerba mate).
  • Jesuit Missionaries arrive to Paraguay by end of 16th century.
  • Slavery and “reformation” of Guaraní Tribe by Jesuits.

1600-1700 — The Commercialization of Yerba Mate throughout Southern Cone

The History of Yerba Mate Tea, by

  • Mate banned in 1616 by Jesuits. They thought it was a demonic drink that led to addiction.
  • Jesuits discover cultivation secret of yerba mate; the seed must first be digested by a bird to soften its stubborn shell.
  • 1645 Commercial trade routes established outside of Paraguay.
  • Mate enters high class society within European homes.
  • 1767 Jesuits expelled by Carlos III.
  • Mate plantations abandoned.
  • Guaraní civilization uprooted.

1800s — Mate Industry Decimated then Positioned for New Growth

The History of Yerba Mate Tea, by

  • Gauchos were the cowboys of South America. They helped to preserved the tradition of sharing yerba mate amongst friends.
  • Paraguayan War’s devastating impact (1864–1870); 60–90% of male Paraguayan population killed.
  • Argentina and Brazil annex critical farm land (1876 agreement) from Paraguay; most important yerba mate territory in present time.
  • Paraguayan mate industry decimated.
  • New groundwork for mate’s resurgence. Brazil and Argentina become the victors of mate production and exportation.
  • 1899 Philadelphia Commercial Museum (International Commercial Congress); yerba mate was discussed and positioned as a respectable tea for health and curative promoting properties.

1900s — Yerba Mate Expands Beyond Southern Cone (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay)

The History of Yerba Mate Tea, by

  • Yerba Mate Tea Company established to spread yerba mate tea throughout United States and Canada (based in Philadelphia, PA).
  • Influx of European immigrants in Misiones, Argentina, help reestablish yerba mate farms.
  • Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil become de-facto Yerba Mate Consortium as exclusive producers of the herb.
  • Revitalization of mate industry begins taking shape.
  • Yerba mate evangelists erupt across U.S. and Europe, sharing health and social benefits of yerba mate.
  • Mate was eclipsed by faster-growing (and better marketed) coffee and tea industry.

Learn how to brew tereré (traditional yerba mate from Paraguay) >>

2000s — Mate Finds a Niche in Health Food Revolution

The History of Yerba Mate Tea, by

  • 1996 Guayakí (largest U.S. based mate company) helps promote mate by teaching the traditional methods across the country.
  • 1999 Eco Teas and Kraus Family form partnership to start importing mate to North America; Eco Teas becomes largest supplier of loose-leaf yerba mate in United States.
  • Renewed global interest into mate pharmacology and health benefits. Dr. Elvira de Mejía successfully destroys colon caners cells with yerba mate in 2011.
  • Argentina breaks new record for mate exports in 2011.
  • Teavana, DavidsTea, and cafés begin serving yerba mate tea. (compare yerba mate with green tea >>)
  • 2011 Circle of Drink establishes yerba mate community. The Rise of the Materos.
  • 2015 Fresh Cup Magazine profiles yerba mate tea.

Video Presentation of The History of Yerba Mate Tea