maté (mätāˈ, mătāˈ) [key], yerba maté yĕrˈbä, –bə, or Paraguay tea, evergreen tree ( Ilex paraguariensis ) of the family Aquifoliaceae (holly family). From ancient times Native Americans and now millions of Argentines and others in South America have made a tea (also called maté) from the young leaves and tender shoots of Ilex paraguensis, the source of the best brew, and from closely related species. Mate is the most popular beverage in S South America, and its culture is an important industry in Brazil and Paraguay. The tea is a stimulant and restorative, less astringent than genuine tea, and contains considerable caffeine. The word mate refers also to the cups in which the tea is infused, which are made from curiously shaped gourds or calabashes, with small openings cut in the top and sometimes decorated with silver mountings. The dried leaves are put in a container and covered with boiling water, and the tea is drunk through a bombilla, a tube provided at the lower end with a strainer of fine basketwork, metal, or perforated wood. Mate is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Celastrales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.