The tradition of preparing mate was learned by the Spanish colonisers from the Guarani Indians. During the period of the Jesuit settlements in the Provincia Real del Guayra, today the state of Paraná in Brazil, in the 16th century Spanish soldiers, who had the habit of making tea, took this herb used by the natives, put the bombilla and hot water in it. The natives used it with cold water, drinking it and separating the leaves with their upper lips. This drink then became the main trade of this province with the city of Asuncion, Paraguay. Over time it was adopted as the traditional drink of the gauchos and huaso, in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and the Southern Region of Brazil) and throughout the Andes Mountains.

Mate is currently a very popular infusion in the countries mentioned, especially in Uruguay, where it is drunk daily by a large part of the population. In countries such as Argentina and Uruguay, including in its capitals Buenos Aires and Montevideo, drinking mate is a daily ritual in almost every household and, in some cases, even in offices where it is very common to see professionals working in front of their computers with a cup of mate. Drinking mate for Argentinians and Uruguayans is as widespread a “ritual” as for Italians drinking a cup of coffee or for the English tea and mate is offered to guests. Linked to the phenomenon of Italian emigration to Argentina and Uruguay, the consumption of mate in Italy was established in the last century in some parts of Italy, especially Sardinia, being strong and ancient ties between this land and Buenos Aires. Emigration also brought the mate in some Albanian villages of Calabria arbëreshë and in particular in Lungro, where even today is still routinely consumed by the population following the traditions imported from Argentina. The food shops of Lungro normally sell both the yerba mate and all the accessories for enjoying this infusion. The recipes used to prepare the drink were different. For example, in Valtellina, the mate was prepared as mate ‘cocido’ and supplemented with red wine and a knob of butter. Until the 1960s-1970s it was a common drink, but it is still used today and can be bought in some traditional shops, pharmacies and especially herbalist’s shops.

Preparation of mate


A bombilla

For the traditional preparation of mate, you need to have available

a mate or porongo, a special container made from a gourd, wood or metal, which is used both to prepare the infusion and to drink it. When buying a new mate, it must be “cured” before being used; to cure the mate, it must be filled with grass, poured with hot water and left to infuse for a whole day. The next day it is emptied and repeat the process, the same thing should be done for at least 4 days, preferably for a week. In this way the mate is impregnated with the flavour of the herb and eliminates extraneous flavours; the water that is thrown away every day will first be reddish, coloured by the container itself, and then it will turn yellow-green, coloured by the herb;

a bombilla, which is a kind of metal (or rarely cane) straw, with a mouth on one side and a filter on the other side to prevent the mate leaves from entering the straw. The filter may simply be a round, perforated closure;

the herb mate can be prepared con palo (with a stalk) or sin palo (without a stalk): the herb con palo has a stronger and more bitter taste; the herb sin palo has a softer taste;

Mate in a teapot

a container for heating water;

a thermal container to keep the water warm for the duration of the mateada (i.e. the mate drink).

Alternatively, packaged dry mate can be prepared very simply as if it were tea, with a teapot equipped with a filter, leaving it to infuse after bringing the water to a semi-boiling temperature. The drink is ready after about a quarter of an hour. It can be left in the teapot and drunk afterwards, without removing the filter if a stronger infusion is desired, by heating it several times at a time.

Cebar mate

Mate drunk the traditional way

Cebar mate is the typical expression meaning ‘to prepare the mate and serve it’; it is a real ritual, led by the cebador. After being filled with herb, the mate is corked with the hand and then shaken and turned upside down, so that dust is deposited on the palm of the hand with which it is corked and removed. Then hot water is poured over it, which should never boil; it is usually heated and then stored in a thermal container; the water should always be poured in the same place, so as to moisten only part of the mate leaves and leave another part dry. The bombilla is placed at the point where the water is poured in, and it should never be moved afterwards. The cebador is the first to drink the mate, sucking up the infusion with the bombilla until it is exhausted and causing the typical sound that a straw makes when the sucked liquid runs out, at which point he adds more water and passes the mate to the person sitting to his left: the person receiving it drinks it to the bottom and gives it back to the cebador, who adds more water and passes it to the second guest, then to the third… The mate continues to circulate for hours. The leaves initially left dry are a kind of reserve: when the first leaves are exhausted, the second ones are wet to continue the mateada and the cebador can also move the bombilla to the new infusion point. In the end, all the mate grass will be used up: it is now mate lavado (“washed mate”). In Argentina and Uruguay, mate is drunk bitter or sweet, by adding sugar to water or directly into the pot.

Mate cocido

Similarly to what has been said about preparation in a teapot, a quick way to prepare mate is the so-called mate cocido (i.e. “cooked mate”). In this case, the yerba mate is used in the same way as tea and served in a cup. For this reason, yerba mate bags similar to tea bags are sold.


In Paraguay, Brazil and the northeastern provinces of Argentina, mate served cold is called tereré (a word of Guarani origin). It is prepared in the same way as traditional mate, but cold, almost icy, water is used instead of hot, so instead of a thermal container full of hot water, a jug of water or juice is kept on hand, possibly cooled with ice cubes. Lemon or certain medicinal herbs are sometimes added.

Health effects

In the Andes it is known for its beneficial effects against soroche, mountain sickness. Mate is mildly exciting due to its caffeine content, about 2% in the young leaves which drops to about 1.20% with storage,[3] and its consumption has diuretic effects. 


There are several historical versions of the origin of dulce de leche. The most famous one concerns the Argentine caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas in the 19th century. The story goes that one winter afternoon at de Rosas’ house, the maid was preparing lechada (a drink made of milk and sugar and boiled until caramelized) when she heard a knock at the door. She left the lechada on the cooker and went to open it; when she returned to the kitchen, the lechada had cooked down to a brown cream: dulce de leche.

It may also have originated in Europe, perhaps like the French confiture de lait: a very similar popular legend dating back to the 14th century is told in the Normandy region of France about a garrison cook who had the same incident while preparing sweetened milk for breakfast.

In 2003, Argentine journalist Víctor Ego Ducrot proved that dulce de leche originated in Chile, arriving in Cuyo and later in Tucumán, where it was used as a filling for alfajores.

In 2008, during the First Seminar of the Agroindustrial Heritage of Mendoza, Argentinean architect Patricio Boyle demonstrated that in 1620 the College of Mendoza recorded the import of ‘dulce de leche chileno’ in its register of expenses.

Although there have been records of dulce de leche consumption since colonial times, Chile has never claimed paternity of the product.

Preparation and uses

Muffins garnished with dulce de leche.

The basic recipe calls for a long boil of milk and sugar, but there are additional ingredients for regional variations. Baking can range from a minimum of half an hour to a maximum of two hours, and requires constant stirring. Dulce de leche can also be made by boiling sweetened condensed milk for a long time. Although the transformation process during cooking is referred to as caramelisation, it is actually a Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction that is responsible for much of the flavour in cooked foods. The volume of ready-made dulce de leche is usually one-sixth of the volume of the original ingredients.

Dulce de leche is used to garnish many sweets, such as cakes, biscuits or ice cream. It is also eaten by the spoonful or spread on fresh bread or toast. French confiture de lait is generally served with fromage blanc.

The quickest way to prepare it is in a pressure cooker; you need a can of condensed milk, place it unopened in the pot, fill with water to at least 4 fingers above the can. Allow 25 minutes from the whistle to elapse, release the steam, let the water cool, open the jar cold and pour the contents into a new sterilised glass jar.


Of medium size and with a skin that varies from pink to orange-red to purple-yellow, there are 20 species of caju that differ in taste and consistency of the pulp, which is generally soft and very sweet with an astringent aftertaste. This plant is native to Brazil, specifically the Amazon region, and has spread throughout the world since the 1500s.

The term ‘caju’ comes from ‘acaiu’, meaning ‘reproducing nut’. It consists of two parts, the actual fruit and its pseudo-fruit, which is the part that is sold as dried fruit, but can also be eaten raw. The main body is very delicate and must be bought fresh with no bruises on the skin. Its pulp is used to make juices, sweets, fruit in syrup, ice cream, liqueurs, syrups and vinegar. The ‘small chestnut’, known as cashew or by its international name ‘cashew nut’, is mainly used as a snack, but it can also be used to make excellent edible oil and flour. Even the cashew’s skin has a use: very hard and full of viscous oil, it is processed and used as a raw material for industry.

Properties of caju

The benefits of using cashew nut oil, both fresh and dried, in food and cosmetics are becoming well known. However, the properties of caju pulp are less well known: its vitamin C content is five times that of citrus fruits such as lemon or orange. It is also a source of protein, fibre, carbohydrates and essential minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It is also rich in vitamin K. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and the leaves and roots can be used to treat skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. It is also antioxidant and helps with gastrointestinal disorders. Indicated for male impotence, in traditional medicine it has always been used to prevent and combat venereal diseases. Infinela ‘acaju membrane’, a thin film made from caju juice, is used as a wound or burn healer. Leaving the juice to rest for 15 to 30 days, fermentation naturally creates this film, which, when applied to the necessary part, adheres perfectly, forming a second skin. In Brazil, there is a cajueiro, the plant from which caju is made, which has entered the Guinness Book of Records: 8500 metres in area, 500 metres in diameter and an annual production of 80,000 cashew nuts. Absurd but real numbers, the result of a genetic malformation that continues to bear fruit. Planted in 1888 by a fisherman who died at the age of 93 under the shade of his huge tree, it can still be seen today if you go 12 km south of Natal to the well-known tourist town of Pitangi do Norte.

We at Demix Group passionately support the development of various projects that have a focus on creating and bringing to market innovative solutions to support the production of foods that encourage the adoption of the diets mentioned in this article, among which we mention that of “FOOD, FASHION & BEAUTY“.