Written by Anita de Gusmão Ronchetti. Professor of Gastronomy, Federal Institute of Santa Catarina.
Chimarrão, an indigenous legacy
Chimarrão is a drink made from the infusion of yerba mate (Ilex Paraguariensis) with hot water, assembled and served in a bowl and drunk through the “pump”, a kind of straw with a filter on the tip. For gauchos, mate or “chimas”, as it is affectionately known, is a heritage, and is part of the cultural identity of the south of the country, being considered, by law, the typical drink of Rio Grande do Sul, and 24 April, its commemorative date (Law 11,929 of June 20, 2203).
There is a lot to write about the history and culture that involves chimarrão, without further ado, I will summarize a little here.
In Brazil, chimarrão is a drink from indigenous cultures, in short the Guaranis and Caingangues. Under the name caá-i (water from the grass), the indigenous natives of southern Brazil prepared the infusion and drank in a bowl made of porongo. They used yerba mate in their daily lives, and also in religious rituals, being a way of communicating with the Gods. For this use in spiritual practice, yerba mate was considered a demonic herb by the Spanish Jesuits who settled here, and in 1596, the use of yerba mate was prohibited for all inhabitants of Spanish possessions. However, the prohibitive measures were not enough, and the indigenous natives continued their consumption clandestinely. The Jesuits learned about the stimulating benefits from the infusion of yerba mate, as well as the thermal comfort of the hot drink in the cold days of the south of the country and started to consume chimarrão, improving the technology, with the introduction of the pump to drink the drink. In addition to consuming, they saw in yerba mate an opportunity to generate profit from the herb trade to the Colony and that was then, one of the biggest sources of profit for the Jesuit Missions.
The mate wheel
Chimarrão is an aggregator of people and a practice of socialization and fraternization, where everyone shares the same gourd and pump (in COVID 19 pandemic times, this practice has become restricted).
Have you ever participated in a mate wheel?
It is not part of the tradition to ask for chimarrão that someone has prepared. Anyone who wants to drink a mate or participate in some “roda” must sit to the left of the feeder (who prepared the drink) or wait for someone to offer one.
When receiving the chimarrão, care must be taken not to “make the bowl your microphone”, that is, it is not worth staying for a long time with the chimas in hand, leave it to tell your stories after taking it.
If the mate gets clogged while you are taking it, know: it is forbidden to touch the pump or the grass inside the bowl! If this happens, return the mate to the feeder so that he can make the necessary corrections.
When receiving a chimarrão, take everything, until “snoring” !! It is not acceptable to take a sip and pass it on.
When delivering the empty bowl, if you don’t want to drink a next chimarrão, just give thanks. Never wait to receive a full chimarrão to say you are satisfied. If you want to continue and receive a chimarrão again, do not say anything, just deliver. That way you will be giving the message you want to continue on the wheel, receiving other gourds.
However …. We are not always able to enjoy a good wheel of chimarrão, full of conversation and sometimes, a snack. Still, it is worth a moment with your mate mate, as the song says: “To quench the thirst for tradition! “
Do you know how to prepare, tchê ?!
How to prepare
“Chimas” has been in my life forever. Childhood memories of morning chimarrão at home and late afternoon chimarrão, after school, at my grandparents’ house. I learned to prepare this drink with my mother and I carry this daily habit wherever I go. As I write, here I am taking my chimas …. I will give you some tips on how to prepare a good mate.
You will need a gourd, a pump, mate for mate and a thermos.
Traditionally, the gourd used is made of porongo (gourd), currently there are glass or ceramic gourds.
There are varieties of yerba mate: pure-leaf, coarse ground, fine ground, with tea. The difference will be in texture and flavor, the thicker the grind, the stronger the taste.
The thermos will keep the water warm for longer, because we don’t always have a wood stove to leave the kettle with water in the corner, right?
1.Put the herb in the bowl up to 2/3 of the container
2.Tilt the gourd to one side by compressing the herb, slightly
3.Still with the gourd tilted, at an angle of approximately 45 degrees, pour warm water into the empty space and wait for the herb to absorb it
4.Place the pump, closing the top hole with your finger and releasing it after fitting it to the herb and bowl.
5.Add hot water, never boiling and you’re done! Ideal water temperature: between 65ºC and 70º.
If you want to know a little more about the subject, follow references:
TEMPASS, Mártin César. Orerémbiú: a relação das práticas alimentares e seus significados com a identidade étnica e a cosmologia Mbyá-Guarani. 2005. 156 f. Dissertação (Mestrado em Antropologia Social) – PPGAS, UFRGS, Porto Alegre, RS, 2005.
ASSMANN, Nathalia Steinmetz. ERVA-MATE: O ALICERCE DE UMA IDENTIDADE HISTÓRICA, CULTURAL, ECONÔMICA E
ESPIRITUAL. Trabalho apresentado para conclusão do curso Superior Tecnológico em Gastronomia pelo Instituto Federal de Santa Catarina.2018.
TEMPASS Mártin César. Não comer para poder rezar: o uso da erva-mate como inibidor de apetite entre os Mbyá-Guarani. In: IX Reunião de Antrtopologia do Mercosul, 2011, Curitiba. IX RAM: Culturas, encontros e desigualdades.. Curitiba: ABA, 2011.
DURAYSKI, Juliana; FONSECA, Marcelo Jaques. A DIMENSÃO SAGRADA DO CONSUMO DO CHIMARRÃO. Disponível em : http://www.anpad.org.br/admin/pdf/2014_EMA313.pdf