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If you’ve done any traveling through South America, then chances are that you’ve probably seen locals sipping from a stout vessel with a filtered metal straw. Traditionally, this container is a hollow calabash gourd (sometimes also horn, wood, or clay) with a stainless steel straw. Although pretty much any beverage could be served from this charming cup and straw, it is almost strictly reserved for maté: an herbal tea infusion made from the leaves of a yerba maté plant. In general, it’s the South American (especially in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil) equivalent of coffees or teas..
The yerba maté plant is actually a holly that has been harvested from the Parana-Paraguay river system since before colonization. It contains caffeine and is actually one of the many "New World" caffeinated beverages that were not largely accepted for consumption in Europe around the colonization period. Its consumption did spread throughout South America, however, and it became a popular beverage across the continent after 1700. River transportation running south of Paraguay eventually brought the drink to Argentina (see above), where its consumption remains a common and casual habit.
These days, you can find the tea and its accompanying gourd worldwide, but why not get it from the source?
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