Yerba Mate in Argentina

Yerba mate is the national drink of Argentina.  It is also popular in Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil.  According to the classical Argentine way, the act of drinking yerba mate is a highly stylized, ritualistic process, requiring the following items:

The gourd is filled two-thirds of the way with moistened mate herb.  Hot water is then poured into the gourd.  The person sucks the mate water out of the gourd with the bombilla, with the strainer holding out the actual mate leaves.  When the water is gone, the gourd is refilled by the server with hot water and passed to the next person in the group.  When that person finishes, the gourd is handed back to the server for another refill.  This rotating process of sharing is what makes the act of mate drinking a moment of intimacy for those present.  There are some regional differences in how mate is consumed.  In northern Argentina, mate is often sweetened, to the dismay of purists.  In Paraguay, mate is often drunk ice-cold.  In Uruguay, mate is often just carried around in thermos flasks. 

Yerba mate is supposed to have powers such as mental stimulation, fatigue reduction, stress reduction, insomnia elimination, appetite control, body immunization, blood detoxification, nervous system toning, restoration of hair color and preservation of youth.

.We will report some data taken from the TGI Argentina study.  This is a consumer survey of 6,351 persons between the ages of 12 and 75 in Argentina conducted by IBOPE Argentina during 1999.  According to this study, 92% of Argentine households consume yerba mate.  This is an exceedingly high level of penetration for any beverage.  By comparison, here are the household consumption levels for various kinds of beverages:

(Source: TGI Argentina, IBOPE Argentina)

Given a 92% consumption rate, this is clearly a pervasive phenomenon.  The following chart shows the consumption levels by various socio-economic levels:

(Source: TGI Argentina, IBOPE Argentina)

There is a slight tendency for the consumption of yerba mate to be inversely correlated with socio-economic level.  Yet, the consumption level is a very high 90% among the top ABC1 households.  In this sense, drinking yerba mate is a very democratic Argentine tradition.

Also, for a country that is obsessed with the differences between those who live in Buenos Aires (known as porteños) and those who live in the interior, the consumption of yerba mate (which evokes the image of the rural gauchos) is slightly higher in Buenos Aires (94%) than outside (91%).


(posted by Roland Soong on 3/31/00)

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