On the Importance of Yerba Mate in the Software Development Process

This paper will highlight the results of an extensive research conducted since the mid 90’s, on the effects of the consumption of beverages based in the plant known as Ilex paraguariensis, in the framework of software development process activities in South America and some small parts of Europe.

This paper will provide an introduction to the herb commonly referred to as “Yerba Mate”, and will later delve into the advantages and disadvantages of such practice, in the context of the creation of software products.


Yerba Mate is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

Yerba mate or yerba-mate (Br.) (Spanish: yerba mate, Portuguese: erva-mate), Ilex paraguariensis, is a species of holly (family Aquifoliaceae) native to subtropical South America in northeastern Argentina, eastern Paraguay and southern Brazil. It was first scientifically classified by Swiss botanist Moses Bertoni, who settled in Paraguay in 1895.

The Yerba Mate (usually and wrongly spelled as “Yerba Maté” in English-speaking texts) is used in the preparation of a caffeinated beverage described by Wikipedia as follows:

Mate (Spanish pronunciation: [mate]), also known as chimarrão or cimarrón, is a traditional South American infused drink. It is prepared from steeping dried leaves of yerba mate (llex paraguariensis, known in Portuguese as erva mate) in hot water. It is the national drink in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, and drinking it is a common social practice in parts of Brazil, Chile, eastern Bolivia, Lebanon and Syria. In Brazil, it is considered to be a tradition typical of the “Gaúchos”, name given to those born in Rio Grande do Sul. The drink contains caffeine.


The multicultural Yerba Mate Association of the Americas states that it is always improper to accent the second syllable, since doing so confuses the word with the unrelated Spanish word meaning “I killed.”

One of the phrases in the quoted paragraphs from Wikipedia brings to mind the importance of such a drink in the creation of software products (no, not the phrase about killing, the previous one). Caffeine is known for its capabilities in waking up inert areas of the brain, particularly during brain-damaging activities.

We consider unfortunate to qualify software development as a brain-damaging activity (although some research arrives to this particular conclusion), however, it is certainly a brain-intensive one, and as such, Yerba Mate has proven, in our tests, to be a particularly interesting option to coffee.


To prepare “Mate” (the beverage), three basic elements are required:

  1. A recipient, usually also referred to as “mate” (to add to the confusion), but also called “guampa”, “cuia”, “calabaza”, and other names without any translation to English whatsoever. Among these names appears also “porongo”, as it is known in Uruguay; this word is usually avoided in Argentina, for the exact same reason the name “Mitsubishi Pajero” has been a commercial failure there. This element can be made of wood, metal or even be the hollow shell of a dried calabash.

  2. A metallic straw, usually also referred to as “bombilla” or less commonly, “bomba”. This element can be made out of metal or wood, and is used to drink the infusion, avoiding to swallow the leaves of Yerba Mate at the same time. The best ones have their top part covered in gold, which protects the lips from the intense heat generated by the water in the metal, and also provides a sense of luxury into an otherwise rather humble activity.

  1. Hot water, never boiled, at around 70 to 80 degrees Celsius (160 - 180 degrees Fahrenheit). It is very, very, VERY important to serve the water at the exact temperature, without boiling the water inadvertently. Usually, the best way to keep the water hot is with a thermos or vacuum flask, of which the latest industry benchmarks highlight the Uruguayan brand “Lumilagro” as the most reliable, competitive and durable in the market. European customers are best served by the standard thermos provided by Ikea.

Once all the elements are ready, the preparation process is fairly simple:

  1. Add the Yerba Mate leaves in the mate (the recipient);
  2. Put the right hand on top of the mate (recipient) covering the entrance, and using your left hand, turn the recipient upside down and shake it a little; then return the recipient to its normal position and dust the mate powder from your hand (it is strongly recommended not sniffing it);
  3. Insert the straw in the recipient, creating a small hole in the Yerba at the same time;
  4. Pour in hot water, very slowly, in the hole caved in the previous step; on the first serve it is best to avoid filling the mate completely, to leave time to the yerba to get moist and release the flavor slowly;
  5. Drink the mate, by sipping at the straw, taking care not to burn your mouth or throat;
  6. Pass the mate around, which helps create and spread a sense of teamwork, to bring an ambience of relaxation and self-contemplation, and also to spread many known viruses.


In the context of software engineering, such a practice has the following advantages:

It contains vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, B… and complex minerals like Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Zinc. It also contains Carotene, Fatty Acids, Chlorophyll, Flavonols, Polyphenols, Inositol, Trace Minerals, Antioxidants, Tannins, Pantothenic Acid, and 15 Amino Acids.


The following disadvantages of Mate (the herb, the beverage and the recipient) are worth considering:


The importance of the Yerba Mate in the process of creation of software has been greatly dismissed by major research efforts, and we think that more research and mate drinking is needed. In our tests, Yerba Mate has been proven to foster creativity, teamwork, overall happiness, and trips to the toilets.