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Mate (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmate], Portuguese pronunciation: ['mätʃi]), also known as chimarrão (Portuguese: [ʃimaˈhɐ̃w̃]) or cimarrón, is a traditional South American infused drink, particularly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern states of Brazil, south of Chile, the Bolivian Chaco, and to some extent, Syria and Lebanon. It is prepared from steeping dried leaves of yerba maté (llex paraguariensis, known in Portuguese as erva mate) in hot water.
Mate is served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabash gourd. The straw is called a bombilla in some Latin American countries, 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. Even if the water is supplied from a modern thermos, the infusion is traditionally drunk from mates or cuias.
As with other brewed herbs, 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 spring sleeve to act as a sieve.
"Tea-bag" type infusions of mate (mate cocido) have been on the market in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay for many years under such trade names as "Taragüí Vitality" in Argentina, "Pajarito" and "Kurupí" in Paraguay, and in Brazil under the name "Mate Leão". This is considered a completely different drink. It is never drunk from cuias or called chimarrão, nor is it associated with the gaúcha culture.
Both the spellings "mate" and "maté" are used in English. The acute accent on the final letter is likely added as a hypercorrection, and serves to indicate that the word and its pronunciation are distinct from the common English word "mate". But, the Yerba Mate Association of the Americas states that it is always incorrect to accent the second syllable, since this creates confusion with an unrelated Spanish word for killing. ("Maté" literally means "I killed" in Spanish).
In Brazil, traditionally prepared mate is known as chimarrão, although the word mate and the expression "mate amargo" (bitter mate) are also used in Argentina and Uruguay. The Spanish cimarrón means "rough", "brute", or "barbarian", but is most widely understood to mean "feral", and is used in almost all of Latin America for domesticated animals that have become wild. The word was then used by the people who colonized the region of the Río de la Plata to describe the natives' rough and sour drink, drunk with no other ingredient to soften the taste.
The method of preparing the mate infusion varies considerably from region to region, and which method yields the finest outcome is hotly debated. However, nearly all methods have some common elements. The beverage is traditionally prepared in the same gourd recipient, also called mate or guampa in Spanish and cuia in Portuguese, in which it is drunk. The gourd is nearly filled with yerba, and hot water (typically at 70-80 °C [160-180 °F], never boiling) is added.
he most common preparation involves a careful arrangement of the yerba within the gourd before adding hot water. In this method, the gourd is first filled one-half to three-quarters of the way with yerba. Too much yerba will result in a "short" mate; conversely, too little yerba results in a "long" mate, both being considered undesirable. After that, any additional herbs ("yuyo", in Portuguese "jujo") may be added for either health or flavor benefits; a practice most common in Paraguay, where people acquire herbs from a local yuyera (herbalist) and use the mate as a base for their herbal infusions. When the gourd is adequately filled, the preparer typically grasps it with the full hand, covering and roughly sealing the opening with the palm. Then the mate is turned upside-down, and shaken vigorously, but briefly and with gradually decreasing force, in this inverted position. This causes the finest, most powdery particles of the yerba to settle toward the preparer's palm and the top of the mate.
Once the herb has settled, the mate is carefully brought to a near-sideways angle, with the opening tilted just slightly upward of the base. The mate is then shaken very gently with a side-to-side motion. This further settles the herb inside the gourd so that the finest particles move toward the opening and the yerba is layered along one side. The largest stems and other bits create a partition between the empty space on one side of the gourd and the lopsided pile of yerba on the other.
After arranging the yerba along one side of the gourd, the mate is carefully tilted back onto its base, minimizing further disturbances of the yerba as it is re-oriented to allow consumption. Some avalanche-like settling is normal, but is not desirable. The angled mound of yerba should remain, with its powdery peak still flat and mostly level with the top of the gourd. A layer of stems along its slope will slide downward and accumulate in the space opposite the yerba (though at least a portion should remain in place).
All of this careful settling of the yerba ensures that each sip contains as little particulate matter as possible, creating a smooth-running mate. The finest particles will then be as distant as possible from the filtering end of the straw. With each draw, the smaller particles would inevitably move toward the straw, but the larger particles and stems filter much of this out. A sloped arrangement provides consistent concentration and flavor with each filling of the mate.
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