In its beginnings, mate came to Uruguay in carts with horses, from neighboring countries. The yerba leaf came from its origin in a natural way, without any previous process and since the mate leaf ended up drying - due to its non-conservation - it arrived in Uruguay with the dry leaf. Keeping its stimulating and "magical" properties, which was considered then, it was consumed dry and without any process. It was used as a promoter of long hours of work. For example, the laborers who worked hard hours in the fields, prepared themselves in large mate (porongo), with a very intense and long-lasting herb, so that it would accompany them throughout the work day. In order to stay active and profitable.
Paraguayan and missionary herbs, of different quality, are not to the taste of Uruguayans. It happens to be that there are 280 varieties of shrubs of the Ilex family, named after Saint Hilaria. Mate is a creation of the Guaranitic civilization, which spread to the Quechua region, although it was used there, like the coca leaf, in direct chewing. It could have disappeared, like so many other characteristics of both cultures, if it had not been preserved by the Jesuit missions. The Loyola priests transformed the habit into a thriving industry and consolidated its consumption in the form of a light bulb infusion. Curiously, it was not the Uruguayan indigenous people who spread the consumption, but the corambreros who arrived from Argentina, and later, the Tape Indians who collaborated in the settlement of the campaign. The gaucho, who was born at that time, adopted the drink and identified with it his image, along with the horse and the facón.
Although the three to six-meter-tall ilex paraguarensis bush grows generously and naturally between 20 and 30° south latitude, it is non-existent in Uruguay, where all attempts at cultivation failed. The harshness of our winters was the factor that transformed our country into one of the main per capita consumers of the drink, as well as consumers in southern Chile.
In Uruguay before 1917, when the first importation of yerba mate was made, Uruguayans did not have a well-defined preference regarding the flavor and behavior of the infusion. Even more, mate was drunk mixed with pitanga, with lemon verbena, with coffee and with any leaf that modified its flavor. And, very frequently, with sugar (a habit that occurs a lot in the neighboring country: Argentina). So it can be concluded that around 1920 the habit of mate as we know it today was consolidated, with yerba from certain Brazilian states.
In Paraguay it is drunk frozen under the name of "Tereré", although with a very different preparation of yerba. In Argentina, it is customary to drink more inside homes (between home), and in smaller containers, made of various materials. In Rio Grande do Sul, where the gaucho has become a matter of confrontation with centralism (first from Brasilia and then from Rio de Janeiro), mate is drunk in gigantic porongos with matching light bulbs, adorned with colored stones. Those open-mouthed porongos (due to a question of climate) and enormous content, demanded a herb with little flavor and a lot of stick, so that the filtering is correct. It is definitely not a herb suitable for the Uruguayan habit. The yerba processes in Brazil are completely different, since they do not have a drying process and the yerba is kept in tanks with temperatures below zero, in order to keep the grinding of the yerba as similar to the leaf. Neither is the missionary used by Argentines, who usually drink it sweet, with added sticks and almost "washed".
Yerba Sara’s Beginnings
It is impossible to resist the temptation to refer to the abundant documentation on yerba mate Sara, which is accumulated in the archives of Carrau y Cia., A firm that since its inception has been dedicated to its commercialization. Its Yerba Sara product was preceded by all the brands, one of which had the family name, until in 1918 the birth of a daughter by Don Julio Carrau led to a double nomenclature. There are three versions of this; that there was a simultaneous double denomination and that Sara was named after her daughter.
Law subjects, the Carrau, with Yerba Sara are constantly dedicated to satisfying the needs of consumers. Being the first company in the Uruguayan market to bring this new infusion. It has a team of experts who are focused on controlling the quality of the yerba in all its traceability. Drying, both in the field and in the process, is monitored to ensure permanent freshness and prevent “burning”. Sara began marketing large bags of 30-kilo yerba; burlap bag, to be sold in different points of sale in the country, with fractional sale. The consumer could buy fractionally the grammage he wanted at a very tempting price. Offering all the benefits that were communicated at that time. Then they were divided into the same company, by means of boxes, this being a packaging for sale. Today one day an unviable raw material for its commercialization, due to the high costs in the raw material. Then, the yerba was sold in wooden boxes, with a kilo of yerba and in parallel, divided in the different points of sale. Then with the industrial changes of the great wars, the costs, the dynamics of the habits changed and began to migrate to packaging with greater manipulation and with industrial materials, such as cans, and then it migrated to paper; being the pack that is marketed today. With different types of material, weight and printing process.
Yerba Sara has a long shaking process to eliminate stems and filaments, common in low-quality products. All these virtues would be enough, but they do not constitute the greatest merit of Yerba Sara. The Uruguayan consumer demands that his yerba not be "washed". The rubber is the prominent component, which determines whether the herb is washed off. It is a powder that comes out of the leaf and is not soluble. The more percentage of rubber the yerba has, the greater its durability. Yerba Sara traditional has an average of 50% crushed leaves, 22% from the rest of the plant and 28% "rubber", which is the highest density component extracted from Ilex leaves. In the elaboration by pylons, there is the secret of the content of the best “rubber”; the treatment of pylons, consists of the repeated crushing in wooden mortars, specially cured for this function. The good matero knows that the durability of the foamy drink is obtained through patient preparation, "swelling" the yerba with warm water and then, through the "turns".
What does the Uruguayan demand from it? It claims that it has the exact fragmentation so that, when it "swells", it does not block the transit through the bulb, that it does not "wash out", that its flavor is lasting and allows several "turns", until completing the half liter of water that, on average, it is used in the infusion.