Invented by the Guaraní people of South America, this cup is used for drinking mate, an infusion made from the leaves of the yerba mate tree, a very common plant in the lowland forests of the South American continent.
Mate is rich in calcium and vitamins A, C and B. It also contains mateine, a nerve stimulant that reduces fatigue, rather like theine and caffeine. From Paraguay to Argentina and Bolivia, mate is an essential part of daily life. People drink it when they are out and about, at social occasions with friends, or at work – much like coffee and tea in the rest of the world.
Mate cups are usually equipped with a bombilla, which serves as both a straw and sieve. Traditionally the cups were made from a dried hollow calabash gourd. With the growing popularity of matéada (mate drinking), they came to be made of wood, metal or horn – like this model from 2002. Each material gives the drink a slightly different taste.