How is Mate produced? This drink has been part of South American life for hundreds of years. Over time, different communities have developed different techniques for growing, harvesting and processing Yerba Mate.
In this article, we will explain in detail all the stages of Maté production, from planting to harvest. Its production will no longer have any secrets for you!
In recent decades, technology has helped improve the efficiency of the entire Mate production process. It seems, however, that the taste, aroma and quality of Maté have not necessarily changed much.
How is Yerba Mate produced and cultivated?
In Spanish, “Yerba” sounds a lot like “hierba,” which means “herb.” However, Yerba is actually the dry, roasted, shredded leaf of a tree that can grow up to 10m tall.
YERBA MATÉ CULTIVATION CONDITIONS
Mate cultivation conditions
Yerba mate grows in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay in a large area of approximately 540,000 km². To guarantee its growth, the optimal conditions are as follows: a high level of humidity, a warm and constant temperature, rich and well-irrigated soil.
Nowadays, sprouts are kept in nurseries for 9 to 12 months .
Then they are transferred directly into the ground. The plants cannot be harvested until their 4th year, and it is only from the 7th or 8th year that they produce enough leaves to have a satisfactory yield from a commercial point of view.
There are now two main types of plantations: classic plantations (in the sun), plantations in the forest (in the shade).
Harvesting by hand
Different conditions of humidity, altitude and temperature directly influence the best time for harvest. This period extends from April to June in the Argentine region of Misiones.
Harvesting is generally done by hand. The development of more sophisticated tools such as hand saws, machetes, scissors or electric scissors, makes the process less tiring and faster.
The leaves are collected in nylon tarps and then selected based on size and quality. The larger ones are discarded, then the smaller ones are quickly sent to the next stage.
Drying in two stages
The two stages sapecado and fogueado are the two stages of drying Yerba Mate leaves.
SAPECADO - KEY STAGE IN MATÉ PRODUCTION
The first, the sapecado, is a crucial stage in the production of Maté which must be carried out within 24 hours of harvest to avoid any biological degradation. Right after harvest, the leaves begin to oxidize, losing their color, aroma and taste.
FOGUEADO, SECOND KEY STEP IN MATÉ PRODUCTION
After sapecado, the leaves go through another drying stage, called fogueado. At this stage, the leaves are either placed on conveyor belts or spread out on fixed racks (mesh supports, particularly used in the maturing of cheese for example) and exposed to hot air at a temperature between 80°C. and 100°C for a period of 2 to 12 hours.
After the double drying process, which today is done with gas or electricity, Yerba Maté has lost 80% of its moisture.
During this first stage of crushing, the leaves are roughly cut into 1 cm² squares in order to bag them and transport them more efficiently.
Refining Yerba Mate
The bags of Yerba Maté are then stored in rooms where temperature, humidity and light can be regulated, much like aging wine. This maturation also ensures that the characteristics and properties of the Yerba will be preserved until its purchase and consumption.
This key stage in the production of Maté can last up to two years and the maturation period varies the taste of the Maté.
Yerba Mate can be classified according to different criteria, but the most fundamental is the presence or absence of stems.
With stems, it contains at least 65% dry, roasted and shredded leaves and no more than 35% stems.
Without stems (called in Spanish "despalillada" or "despalada"), it contains at least 90% dry, toasted and shredded leaves and no more than 10% stems.
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