Paraguayan holly - mate tea

Paraguayan holly - mate tea

Paraguayan holly - the plant that gives the famous tea of ​​the Guarani Indians

Few people know what is called holly paraguayan hiding a plant, better known to all of us as a plant mate, from the leaves of which they make very fashionable now tea mate... The homeland of this drink is places with rainy forests, located in the northern part of the interfluve of the Parana and Paraguay rivers.

Since ancient times, when Columbus had not yet discovered America, the Guarani Indians were already willing to drink mate. The Indians called this plant "kaa" (grass), the Spanish conquistadors called it Yerba mate, and in scientific reference books it appears as a representative of the genus of the holly family of the holly family (Illex paraguariensis).

We know well that many plants migrated from the American continent and spread throughout the world, became so native to us that we sometimes even try to challenge this right. But "Paraguayan tea", as it is sometimes called there, alas, did not leave its area for a very long time, although it still remains one of the favorite drinks among the locals. Or maybe he gets his new popularity due to the fact that we are somehow bored with ordinary tea, we want something else special, unusual.

In the wild, the Paraguayan holly is a branchy shrub tree that lives up to fifty years, reaching a height of 15 meters. But in domesticated form, alas, it is a low tree (more often a shrub), no more than 1.5-2 m. And it can no longer boast of longevity: the age ceiling is only 22-25 years old. Mate tea is prepared from its dried and crushed leathery glossy leaves with a scalloped edge and from young shoots.

The technology for the production of plant raw materials for this tea, like hundreds of years ago, has remained the same and its harvesting occurs only by hand: the bushes of Paraguayan holly cannot be processed by machine. Perhaps for this reason, the distribution of this plant as a raw material for a drink, unfortunately, did not gain a decent scale.

As a rule, by the end of the growing season, the annual growth of the holly reaches its maximum - the time comes for harvesting plant materials. Armed with long machetes, people (usually men) walk in rows and knock thin branches with leaves from bushes. Behind them are rows of pickers who collect cut raw materials in large baskets. Then it is dried over low heat, after which it must be stored for at least two years in tightly packed bags in the shade under awnings.

This procedure is necessary so that fermentation takes place in the leaves, during which bitterness disappears from them, but a kind of "bouquet" of aromas is formed, which gourmets enjoy when drinking this tea. After the final (to a certain size) crushing, the raw materials are packed into beautiful packages, and then they are ready for the retail chain.

Before my business trip to Moscow a few years ago, I had already heard a lot about the mate tea that was fashionable there, and in St. Petersburg, due to the lack of time, I could not try this new product. Therefore, interested in the newfangled metropolitan trend, I asked them to give me some newfangled tea there (some of my acquaintances there assured me that this drink is more advanced than the usual good Ceylon tea, coffee or sake).

Having poured the crushed leaves of the plant into a cup, they poured boiling water over them: the bitterness was, I note, strong and unpleasant. Guessing that the tea was prepared for me incorrectly, I went to a specialized "tea" cafe, where I laid out a decent amount for those times for a couple of modest cups of mate. There is nothing to be done, because for its correct preparation and use it is important to have three specific objects that my friends did not have.

How to drink mate? First of all, if everything is done according to the rules, then mate tea is not drunk from cups.

The first attribute is a traditional vessel calabash, it is specially designed for brewing and drinking mate. It is considered ideal if it is made from a small pumpkin. For this purpose, the top is cut off and the pulp is removed, and the hard shell is dried in the sun (or you can smoke it, as the Indians did, over a fire). The edges of the resulting vessel are bound with metal, the walls are sometimes decorated with silver. It is believed that the special flavor of mate is achieved due to the fact that the surface of the calabash breathes. But now some wealthy mate lovers consider it prestigious to make this traditional container of silver in the form of a pumpkin.

The second attribute is bombilla - a special slightly curved (or straight) metal tube made in the form of a mouthpiece, the lower part of which is an extension - an onion-like strainer (most often with small holes). The third item can be a thermos of warm water.

It is worth noting: just like in Japan, drinking tea is a real ceremony, so when using mate, they observe a kind of ritual and necessarily with these three attributes. Dry tea leaves are poured into the calabash, filling it by two-thirds, while the vessel is tilted so that the entire tea leaves are at one wall. Then a little water is poured into the calabash so that it is all absorbed into the tea leaves. After the infusion has swollen, the top opening of the bombilla is plugged and lowered to the bottom of the calabash - in the thick of the infusion. Then hot water is carefully added to the calabash (but not boiling water - otherwise the mate will lose its taste and become bitter).

After two minutes, when the tea leaves are swollen and fill the vessel to the top, you can drink the mate. But in the cafe you are specially warned how to drink mate correctly: slowly, in small sips, sipping thick from the bottom. In this case, the calabash is held in the left hand, the thumb holds the vessel from below, and the middle and index fingers - at the edge. It is recommended not to stir the brew with bombilla. In addition, it turns out that drinking to the end is a sign of bad taste.

Light green mate infusion with a bright herbaceous aroma is similar to regular green tea, but it has a peculiar flavor. Lovers of good varieties of Ceylon, Indian, Abkhazian and Krasnodar teas may think that mate is devoid of any taste, but this is not so: mate does not open immediately - only then you feel the tart bitterness of the drink.

In terms of its composition, mate can be considered the brother of tea (there are almost half of the useful elements of the periodic table and a whole set of vitamins). Due to the rather high content of xanthine in the drink, the effect on a person is almost the same as caffeine, and there is a peculiar effect of this tea on a person. Proponents of this drink are convinced that mate is much better than coffee, because then they feel more alert and more active without any unpleasant consequences, such as increased heart rate.

Mate lowers blood pressure and dilates blood vessels, as well as improves mood and reduces nervousness and anxiety. They assure that it strengthens strength, drives out ailments, relieves depression and prolongs life. But the opinion of medical professionals: drinking mate improves the functioning of the heart and stomach, dilates blood vessels, strengthens memory and the nervous system.

For the sake of interest, I later learned several recipes drink with this "weed". You can put a spoonful of honey on the bottom of the calabash, add tea leaves, then cook and drink like a classic mate. With sweetened (granulated sugar) mat, dry tea leaves are poured into the calabash, poured with a small volume of water so that the tea leaves swell. Having closed the upper opening of the bombilla, they carefully immerse it in the thick of the infusion, and then add sweetened hot water to the vessel.

Cold mate is prepared in the same way as usual (only it is poured not with hot, but cold water (infused for 1 hour). Ice, orange or lemon juice, mint leaves can be added to the cold mate.

To give mate a sweet taste and pleasant aroma, the Guarani Indians add the "honey" leaves of a stevia bush to it. It is found in the subtropical regions of Brazil and Paraguay; stevia has already been discussed in the magazine more than once. By the way, some growers already grow this plant on windowsills, as it is useful for diabetics.

In the cafe in the capital where I tried mate, they didn’t offer me stevia. When I asked the waitress about her, she could not understand what I wanted, although the cafe was decorated very extravagantly - something in between Latin American and Chinese styles. A little later, finding myself in one of the large cities of the Pskov region, I asked a saleswoman of one of the best grocery stores about mat. Alas, she could not understand what I want, she didn’t even hear the name of the drink.

In conclusion, let us mention a slightly sad legend about the Paraguayan holly - mate, which appeared in those distant times when it was customary for the Indians to have legends for all moments of life.

Once, while traveling, after a hard exhausting day, God came across a modest dwelling in which an old man lived with a beautiful daughter named O Sa-a, which meant "mate" from the Indian.

Without even guessing who was in front of them, the owners fed the tired traveler, giving him the last supplies of food, including the only chicken. God wondered why the old man lived in such a wilderness. And the old man replied: "I do not want people, seeing the beauty of my daughter, desecrate her, but she belongs to the gods."

Agreeing that the beauty of the girl is truly extraordinary and divine, God remarked: “But people should know about her, so I will turn her into a tree that will serve and help people, as you did for me, and let the whole world know about her! ". He turned the beauty into a tree - a Paraguayan holly, giving a drink to mate, but he deprived his father of his only daughter and her help in his close old age.

The Indians sincerely believed this legend and the fact that the gods gave them mate in order for people to live happily on earth, not knowing fatigue, and to be healthy and strong. Indeed, in fact, during large campaigns, mate supported their strength and allowed the Indians to go without food for a long time, as if confirming their divine origin. Indians used mate during rituals and ceremonies, and, drinking mate from a common calabash, passed it to each other, like a pipe of peace.

Judging by the chronicles of the colonization of Latin America, the Spaniards almost immediately began to use mate, especially due to the fact that this drink helped them avoid scurvy, a terrible disease of travelers of that time, since they did not have the opportunity to consume fresh fruits and vegetables during their long return home across the ocean. ...

Later, in the 17th century, the flow of Europeans increased significantly to the American continent, and many preachers also penetrated. The Vatican acquired vast land holdings in these territories, and the Jesuit order in 1611 began to form an independent Jesuit empire that existed for 160 years.

Very quickly appreciating the beneficial properties of mate, the Jesuits began to supply it to Europe, where the drink began to be called "Jesuit's infusion", while it was more expensive than tea and coffee.

During the revolutions and wars in South America in the 19th century, mate in Europe was forgotten for many decades and later was perceived as exotic.

Alexander Lazarev,
candidate of biological sciences,
Senior Researcher, All-Russian Research Institute of Plant Protection

Paraguayan drink that has medicinal properties

Such a drink is brewed from dried leaves of the Paraguayan holly plant, and also has a tonic property and more.

Doctors are sure that it is much more useful to drink mate than the usual and beloved by all coffee, because in the first case, the drink does not harm the body, but has an extremely beneficial effect on it.

You hardly knew about these unique properties of mate before:

1. Decrease in appetite and help in losing weight. Mate is called one of the healthiest drinks, which quickly destroys hunger and prevents a person from overeating. For those who are going to an event where the table will fall from high-calorie dishes, nutritionists advise to drink a cup of warm mate without sugar an hour before the feast. Thus, a person will protect his figure from extra calories, because his appetite will be significantly reduced.

2. Calms the nerves. Mate has similar properties as pharmaceutical antidepressants, only in this drink there are absolutely no chemicals that negatively affect the liver and digestive organs. Those who suffer from insomnia and stress should definitely try treating the nervous system with a mat.

3. Stimulates brain activity. As noted above, mate affects a person, just like coffee. In this regard, doctors advise waking up not with coffee, but with a cup of freshly brewed mate. This drink has tonic, stimulating, invigorating properties, so if you drink it in the morning after breakfast, you will quickly get up in line and will not feel sleepy during the day.

4. Strengthening the immune system. Mate is indispensable in the off-season, when the immune system is exposed to the external influence of infections and viruses in the air. Experts say that regular consumption of this drink has a positive effect on the performance of the immune system, and also speeds up the process of a person's recovery if he still managed to catch something.

How to properly learn to drink tea without sugar

5. Healing of ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. It cannot be argued that mate is better than tablets and special gentle nutrition, but in the process of treating stomach or duodenal ulcers, even doctors recommend leaning on the mat, as it contains antioxidants with regenerating properties.

Chemical composition

As a result of numerous scientific studies, the composition of the holly has been found:

  • vitamins A, B, E, C,
  • resin, choline,
  • organic acids,
  • purine alkaloids,
  • tannins,
  • hydrochloric acid,
  • bitterness, saponins,
  • minerals: potassium, manganese, iron, magnesium, silicon, sodium,
  • cellulose.

The fruits contain ilexanthin and rutin, which are dyes.


Holly branches are an ornament used in many European countries. At Christmas, they decorate the premises with their shoots.

Leaves and fruits contain useful substances and are used in folk medicine and cooking.

Landscape design

Hollows are planted in gardens and greenhouses in groups or singly, used as hedges, to create topiary. Hybrid variegated varieties look especially impressive. Dense ornamental crown, perfectly amenable to formation, slow growth, relative unpretentiousness make these plants almost universal.

Leaves, young shoots and fruits of the common, Paraguayan, Chinese and broad-leaved types of holly contain biologically active substances:

  • theobromine, theophylline, caffeine and other alkaloids
  • glycosides
  • organic acids
  • bitterness
  • saponins
  • tannins
  • vitamins.

Bitter kudin tea is prepared from young leaves of Chinese holly. With its help, they strengthen the body, fight overweight, high blood pressure, metabolic disorders, poor digestion, and nervous disorders.

Paraguayan holly is a raw material for mate production. This drink stimulates the cardiovascular system, brain function, improves mood, invigorates, detoxifies and reduces fatigue, prevents apathy and depression.

The leaves and flowers of broadleaf holly are used in folk medicine for the preparation of diuretics, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, hemostatic and bactericidal agents.


The woody mass of holly of light brown, olive or yellowish color with a contrasting natural pattern looks like boxwood. is about 570-700 kg / m3. Biostability and moisture resistance are below average. The fibers run in different directions, making the wood difficult to handle. However, the material lends itself well to grinding, gluing and painting. Due to its strength and decorative appearance, it is used for the manufacture of small parts, wooden decorations, souvenirs, and design elements.

Natural drinks

The most popular energy drink in the world. The caffeine content varies greatly depending on the type of coffee and how it is prepared.

Arabian coffee contains 0.6-1.2% caffeine, robusta - 1.8-3%, Liberian - 1.2-1.5%.

A type
Espresso coffee 100 calyx 50-60
Black coffee 80-135 cup 200-220
Instant coffee 65-100 cup 200-220
Instant coffee, decaf 2-3 cup 200-220

One of the most popular drinks in the world. In terms of the strength of the stimulating effect, it is inferior to coffee.

The caffeine content depends on the variety and the processing method.

In Indian tea 3-5% of caffeine, in Chinese - 2.6-3.6%, in Georgian - 2-4%.

There is only slightly more caffeine in green tea than in black - a little is lost during fermentation and drying of the tea. The powerful stimulating effect of green tea is not only due to caffeine, but also due to its high levels of antioxidants.

3. Cocoa (liquid chocolate)

It contains a lot of the most useful antioxidants. The content of caffeine in it is much less than in tea and coffee, so the "rise" of cocoa is less pronounced. But if you add spices to it, especially cayenne pepper, it will stimulate decently.

4. Mate (Paraguayan tea)

A very powerful stimulant. It is becoming more and more popular. It is convenient to prepare and is similar in this to green tea - it can be brewed many times by adding boiling water to the brew that has already been used throughout the day. Indians in South America did it in a similar way. Only they used for this not a teapot and a cup, but an oscillating bowl - a vessel made of empty pumpkin, tapering upward, and a bobilla - a straw with a filter at the end (it prevented the absorption of mate tea into the mouth). Indians sometimes do not part with bombilla, sucking the drink all day. It gives them energy for the whole day.

Industrial drinks

Carbonated drinks, which contain approximately 36-45.6 mg of caffeine in a traditional 330 ml iron can, are very high in sugar, as well as colors, acidulants, preservatives, flavors and other food additives.

6. Cold teas (ice teas)

Advertised as natural tea, only chilled. But, in fact, much closer to soda. Otherwise, their composition is similar: instead of kola, leuzea or tarragon extract, they contain tea extract and also contain sugar, flavorings, preservatives, etc.

7. Energy drinks

Often they do not contain pure caffeine, but extract of guarana or other plants. By law, any package, regardless of its volume, must contain no more than 150 mg of caffeine. More taurine and glucuronolactone can be added. But their effects are not considered proven. In fact, these drinks are close to sodas and contain sugar and all the nutritional additives used in them.

The Paraguayan holly - the one from which the cherished mate leaves are harvested - grows throughout South America. But connoisseurs of Paraguayan tea know very well that it is in Argentina that the best plantations can be found. First, the country's fertile lands play a huge role. Secondly, the growing of mate is given the closest attention from the government: money is allocated for technology and research in this area.

In Argentina, mate has long been declared a “gold product”. However, this does not guarantee the purchase of a truly high-quality product. The fact is that there are many different firms in the country, and not all of them attach importance to quality, preferring to earn more and faster.

Propagation by cuttings and layering

For propagation of holly, layers or cuttings are most often used. This method is faster and more efficient than seed propagation. The stages of propagation by cuttings are as follows:

With proper care, the seedlings will be obtained in 2-3 months. Cuttings that have germinated in water are additionally planted in pots with soil. It will be possible to plant young plants in open ground only next spring. During the warm season, young bushes have time to ripen and grow powerful roots. However, for the winter they must be sprinkled with peat and covered with spruce branches.

If holly is already growing on the site, it can be propagated using layering. To do this, the branches are tilted and lightly sprinkled with earth. The procedure for such reproduction will be as follows:

Reproduction by seeds in the natural habitat of the holly takes 1.5 years. On the garden plot, you can wait 2-3 years for seedlings to appear. Since the plant is dioecious, it needs artificial pollination.

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