Mate: sometimes erroneously spelled maté in English, but never in Spanish or Portuguese), also known as yerba mate, chimarrão (Portuguese or cimarrón (Spanish), is a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink, particularly in Argentina (where it is defined as the “national infusion”), Uruguay, Paraguay, the Bolivian Chaco and Southern Brazil, and in southern Chile. It is also consumed by the Druze in Syria, the largest importer in the world, and in Lebanon.
It is prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis, known in Portuguese as erva-mate) in hot water and is served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabashgourd. The straw is called a bombilla in Spanish, a bomba in Portuguese, and a bombija or, more generally, a masassa (type of straw) in Arabic. The straw is traditionally made of silver. Modern, commercially available straws are typically made of nickel silver, called alpaca; stainless steel, or hollow-stemmed cane. The gourd is known as a mate or a guampa; while in Brazil, it has the specific name of cuia, or also cabaça (the name for Indigenous-influenced calabash gourds in other regions of Brazil, still used for general food and drink in remote regions). Even if the water is supplied from a modern thermos, the infusion is traditionally drunk from mates or cuias.
Yerba mate leaves are dried, chopped, and ground into a powdery mixture called yerba. The bombilla acts as both a straw and a sieve. The submerged end is flared, with small holes or slots that allow the brewed liquid in, but block the chunky matter that makes up much of the mixture. A modern bombilla design uses a straight tube with holes, or a spring sleeve to act as a sieve.
“Tea-bag” type infusions of mate (Spanish: mate cocido, Portuguese: chá mate) have been on the market in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay for many years under such trade names as “Taragüi Vitality” in Argentina, “Pajarito” and “Kurupí” in Paraguay, and Matte Leão in Brazil.