It is a known fact that the Spanish Jesuits have to be thanked for the spreading and commercialization of Yerba Mate. However, before that happened there some interesting and distressing history.
The Banning Of Yerba Mate
The Jesuits didn’t like the widespread consumption of the Mate by the Indians whom they had just colonized. They called it a Demonic Drink and banned it in their colonies. The rituals associated with the consumption of Yerba Mate were opposed by the Christians. They feared that it would affect the spread of the religion among the Indians.
But the banning had the opposite effect. The church soon started losing its followers to the drink. The Jesuits understood that the ban will be detrimental to their mission and revoked it. The church wisely substituted the name of the Guarani holy spirit Tupa with the name of their own Saint Thomas and made the drink closer to the church. This even earned the name Yerba Missionera for the drink.
Commercializing The Potion
As the Jesuits started using it more, the drink experienced a growth in its popularity. The Spanish crown gave permission for the church to harvest and export the leaves for commercial purposes. They used the Indians to harvest the leaves from the wild strands in the forest.
As the export needs increased the Jesuits wanted to grow the Yerba Mate as a crop. But there was a hitch. The seeds had to pass through the digestive tract of a bird for it to germinate. The Jesuits knew the secret and kept it to themselves for almost half a century. It was difficult to commercially produce the plant.
The domestication of the plants went on from 1650 through to 1670. It brought a higher production of the herb. The domestication of the plantation was a commercial success with the Jesuits benefitting monetarily.
Despite the success, this period marked a sad part in the history of the Indians and the drink that they loved. The Jesuits employed Spanish contractors to get the Indians to work on the plantation. The Indians were brutally tortured by these contractors to plant the herbs, water the plants, pluck the leaves and prepare the Yerba Mate. Such torture by these contractors has never been repeated in the history of humanity. The Yerba had its own dark history after all.
The quality of the mate that the Jesuits was so good that the beverage became known as the Jesuit Tea.
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