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What Is Chimarrao?

Many people have heard of yerba mate, but fewer people are familiar with chimarrao. This grassy herbal drink has been popular in South America for hundreds of years. 

Chimarrao is the name for Brazil’s version of yerba mate, an herbal drink created from the dried leaves of the South American holly plant Ilex paraguariensis. Chimarrao is known for a variety of health benefits and for improving mental focus. The active stimulant in chimarrao is caffeine. 

Chimarrao isn’t as well-known as some other herbal teas, but it should be! This bright green concoction is a great way to boost your nutritional levels while also helping protect you against some common illnesses. 

Chimarrao Is a Brazilian Mate Drink

Chimarrao is the Brazilian version of the yerba mate herbal drink popularly consumed across South America. It is easily recognized by its bright neon-green coloring similar to matcha tea powder. Chimarrao contains many essential amino acids, polyphenol antioxidants, and other powerful nutrients

This caffeinated drink has traditionally taken the place of coffee in South American society in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. More chimarrao is consumed in South America than anywhere else in the world.  

What Is Chimarrao in English? 

Chimarrao is a Spanish word synonymous with yerba mate, but it also specifically refers to the mate style consumed in Brazil. The word chimarrao has mixed origins from both Spain and Portugal. In Spanish, the word chimarrao is similar to the word “cimarron” or “feral”. This refers to the strong bitter flavor of the drink. 

In Portuguese, the word “chimarrao” means “secret” or “clandestine”. This refers to the gaucho lifestyle of rustling cattle since yerba mate has always been intricately connected with gauchos in the same way black range coffee is associated with American cowboys. 

While the yerba mate trade may have been clandestine at one point, that’s no longer the case. In the 21st century, Argentina is known as the greatest exporter of yerba mate in the world. 

chimarrao yerba mate

Where Is Chimarrao From?

Chimarrao is primarily found in the southern regions of Brazil. This includes areas such as the following: 

  • Santa Catarina
  • Parana
  • Rio Grande do Sul

Even though chimarrao originated in these parts of Brazil, the drink has gained worldwide popularity in the centuries since it was introduced outside of the country. 

What Is Chimarrao Etiquette?

Chimarrao is commonly consumed as a social drink, and often multiple people will share one mate gourd as a form of bonding. However, sharing chimarrao with others requires that you know proper chimarrao etiquette. These are the unspoken rules of drinking chimarrao with others: 

  • Don’t play with the straw. Twirling the bombilla straw in the chimarrao can cause the tea to taste bad.
  • Don’t bogart the gourd. If you’re the one with the mate gourd, don’t hold it while you’re telling a story. Take your sips and pass it on.
  • Don’t join in if you’re sick. If you have a sore throat or a cold, politely decline a sip of the mate gourd. You don’t want to pass any sickness along to your friends. 

Chimarrao is one of the few drinks where it’s customary to share, so you need to be aware of the manners involved to avoid a faux pas, especially if you’re drinking chimarrao in Brazil with unfamiliar company.

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How to Drink Chimarrao

Drinking chimarrao isn’t complicated as long as you have the right equipment for it. Unlike other types of herbal tea, chimarrao requires specialized equipment to drink. Here’s what you need to make your own chimarrao: 

  • Yerba mate: Chimarrao yerba mate can be purchased in a powdered form for making chimarrao. Be sure to choose a high-quality yerba mate for the best flavor results.
  • Hot water: Hot water is needed to infuse the chimarrao. Filtered spring water is the best type of water to use for chimarrao. Make sure the water is hot during your infusion, not boiling, as boiled water may negatively affect the flavor.
  • Mate gourd: The gourd used to drink yerba mate and chimarrao, also known as a mate, is an important part of the chimarrao tradition. While mate gourds were originally made of real gourds, they can now often be found in plastic or stainless steel varieties.
  • Bombilla: The bombilla is a special metal straw that is used to filter the chimarrao. This prevents the person drinking the chimarrao from sucking up any stems or other debris from the bottom of the mate gourd. 

Chimarrao doesn’t require a lot of tools to make, but you’ll need at least the ones above to get your mate on. Simply fill the gourd two-thirds of the way full with yerba mate, pour hot water over the powder to infuse the drink, and get to sipping! Chimarrao can also be sweetened with sugar for those who aren’t fans of its natural herbal flavors. 

Chimarrao Is a South American Delicacy

Even if you’ve never heard of chimarrao before, you should try picking up a mate gourd, a bombilla, and some yerba mate. That way you can try this nutritious green drink for yourself and see what all the fuss is about!  

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