Mat?® is actually not tea but a tea-like beverage originating from Argentina and Uruguay, and primarily consumed in those countries as well as in Paraguay and southern Brazil; brewed from the dried leaves and stemlets of the perennial Yerba Mat?® tree. Its name derives from the quichua word "mat?¡" designating the gourd in which it is traditionally served. On average, 300,000 tons of mat?® are produced each year.
In its consistency similar to green tea, mat?® has a distinctive, full, bittersweet flavor with a note of alfalfa, resembling that of tea but milder. Of the 196 volatile chemical compounds contained in Yerba Mat?®, 144 are also contained in tea. Knowing its manifold health benefits ÔÇô among the plant's ingredients are the alkaloids xanthine, theophylline and theobromine as well as vitamins C, E, several B vitamins and numerous minerals ÔÇô the South American Guarani Indians have traditionally used the plant for medicinal purposes, inter alia as a stimulant to the central nervous system, to promote mental, physical and cardiovascular activity, enhance resistance to fatigue, reduce fever, mitigate thirst and hunger, decrease blood pressure, and as a diuretic, laxative, purgative, sudorific, and antirheumatic.
Legend has it that knowledge of the infusion's powers was first imparted to a young Guarani woman and her father by a mysterious shaman, rewarding the woman's faithfulness in staying with her exhausted father while her tribe continued their search for arable land. In recent years, mat?® has become a cultural phenomenon throughout large parts of South America, and it is now gaining increased popularity in Northern America and Europe as well. In South America, sharing mat?® from the same container and the same straw (bombilla) is a symbol of closeness and friendship, both in a family and in other social contexts.