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Porto Alegre, Brazil: Chimarrão (The Mystery Behind the Wooden Goblet)

Updated on June 11, 2015

C. De Melo (Absorbing the Local Culture at Redencão Park)

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(courtesy of Wikipedia) CREDIT: United States Botanic Garden
(courtesy of Wikipedia) CREDIT: United States Botanic Garden

Chimarrão Point

Erva Mate Selection

What is Chimarrão???

Before leaving Florence in order to spend a few months in Brazil, I showed my friend Toni some photos of Porto Alegre (the capital of Rio Grande do Sul in the south of Brazil). The first thing she asked me was, 'Why are all these people carrying around wooden goblets?' I burst out laughing. Since my husband is a native-born Gaucho, he had already explained the mystery of this beverage to me. Toni, however, had no idea. I gave her a brief explanation. Surprised, she asked, 'People really lug around heavy thermoses, too?'

Oh, yes they do! This hub is dedicated to Toni- I hope that I can succeed in revealing all the mysteries for you! LOL!

Let's start at the beginning: The Pampas is the region between Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. A Gaucho is a cowboy from the Pampas. The Brazilian Gauchos traditionally drink Chimarrão (shee-mahrr-ow), which is pulverized Yerba Mate bark. This is consumed very hot (thus the hot water thermos) in a Cuia (koo-yah) made of either wood or Porongo, which is a type of hollowed-out gourd. You must sip it through a Bomba(bohm-bah), which is a metal straw with a tiny strainer at the end in order to filter the liquid. The pulverized tree bark, commonly known as Erva Mate(ehrvah mat-eh) comes in different grades and varieties.

My husband never really got into chimarrão and he doesn't carry around a thermos or a cuia (aka: 'wooden goblet'), but his friends do- and I got to taste it firsthand, made by a local, to boot! Since it was very hot, and there was no sugar added, it tasted like herbal tea. Some people add sugar and in São Paulo, my friends drink it cold (I don't think that is common here in the south).

I did some research and discovered that chimarrão supposedly has some very interesting attributes. For instance, it has cancer-fighting properties, and it counteracts damage caused by free radicals. Add to this list vitamins B, C, D, Calcium, Magnesium (to mention a few) AND some consider it to be an aphrodisiac. It also aids in digestion (perfect to drink during the holidays when we all tend to overeat). Other research claims the exact opposite- that chimarrão is carcinogenic. Why? Because it is consumed so hot that it may lead to esophageal cancer (the same is true for coffee and tea), but this is a temperature issue, not an ingredient issue.

I guess that I will have to consume it semi-hot and only in the cold weather months (yes, it does get quite cold here in the south). While I am not opposed to drinking chimarrão for the health benefits, I don't think I will be lugging around a hot thermos since I like to travel light. Maybe we'll enjoy it once in a home.

On the weekends people gather around at the many public parks of the city to enjoy their chimarrão. We happen to staying near the biggest one of all- the Redenção (it even has a small zoo and a lake). Last Sunday, we met up with some friends who played guitar and sang (very well, might I add). The atmosphere is totally chill and relaxing. My husband told me that people go to these parks to socialize and people-watch, just like the Italians that hang out in the piazzas. I was reminded of Florence, except there, glass goblets full of Chianti would be the beverage of choice.

If any of you Gauchos (or Gauchas) OR chimarrão drinkers out there want to add some more information, I would love that! I'm always open to learning and experiencing new things. Please leave a comment and thank you for reading!

C. De Melo
Author & Artist

Gaucho Figurine & Local Soccer Team Thermos


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      Jenny 22 months ago

      I was in Santa Maria, RS for 6 weeks and one of the first things I encountered was the chimarrao! Before that I thought only the Uruguayans consumed this :D Brought some back to Sydney with me as well

      Also what my gaucho friends were saying was that even though you pass it around and share the drink, you have to finish all the drink before giving it to another person :D

      Loved your post!

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      Lucas 3 years ago

      I loved your text, very instructive and well written.

      Cheers from Caxias do Sul - RS!

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      Aaron 3 years ago

      One thing that hasn't been said yet is that chimarrão is a social drink. I say that differently than social drinks in America. There the tradition is to pass it around the group for one drink, full to empty in the cuia, around the circle of people, all the group shares the cuia while one person cares for the thermos filling it every time. It is also considered uncool to mess with the herbs if you aren't the thermos tender too.

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      C De Melo 5 years ago from Florence, Italy and WORLDWIDE

      Sometimes Portuguese stores will carry a few Brazilian items. Otherwise, I'm sure there are Brazilian shops around. Have you tried google?

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      Billin 5 years ago

      Hey I lived in Brazil and I love chimarrao but since getting back to the states I haven't found any quality herva. Does anyone know of a place in the states that they sell Brazilian herva?

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      C De Melo 6 years ago from Florence, Italy and WORLDWIDE

      Hi Aces, thanks for your comment. We went to Gramado, but that's more German, I believe. I didn't get to go to Bento Goncalves or Caxias do Sul(unfortunately).

      In POA I ate at various restaurants claiming to have authentic Italian food, but it's not true. The food was nothing like the food here in Italy (the pizza was terrible- and I was shocked to see the people eating it with mustard and ketchup!).

      When people go to RS they should stick to eating MEAT. The beef is AMAZING, so are the cuts (alcatra, picanha, etc). The churrasco is definitely what they do best :)

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      Aces 6 years ago

      btw RealFoodie... have you visited the italian areas of Rio Grande do Sul?

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      Aces 6 years ago


      in Brazil there are gauchas. Because in Brazil, gaucho is BOTH the same thing as in argentina (the pampas "cowboy") but the word also became the gentilic for people born in Rio Grande do Sul state. Thus gaúchas are women born in Rio Grande do Sul. In the folkloric sense, the woman of the gaúcho is the "prenda".

      You are right that you cant boil the water. That is very important. Take the water out of the fire as it first starts to hiss.

      Here we drink hot chimarrão even in the summer, on the beach.

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      L! 6 years ago

      Hi C,i really liked your article!! I think i can add some extra things to it

      i am argentinian, and we also have Chimarrão here, execpt we call it MATE. Mate is the drink and also the "wooden goblet". here we don´t usualy carry around the thermos, but in Uruguay is very common that. we do hang around in parks and drink mate.

      the water is not supposed to boil because it damages the yerba, the water temperature is around 75-85°C

      in the hot season you can have TERERE wich is with cold water or orange juice.

      one more thing, there are no gauchas! i was just a man thing that...

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      C De Melo 7 years ago from Florence, Italy and WORLDWIDE

      Toni, you are awesome- thanks!

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      Toni 7 years ago


      Just found this for your blog so your followers and friends can see what time it is where you are:

    • REALfoodie profile image

      C De Melo 7 years ago from Florence, Italy and WORLDWIDE

      Thanks so much for all your comments, everyone! I'm pretty sure that Yerba Mate is easy to find almost anywhere. I couldn't believe how many health benefits it has! :)

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      Ricardo Nunes 7 years ago from Portugal

      Thanks for enlightening me, now I`m curious about this drink...

      When I first saw this hub I thought it was about a Portuguese restaurant called exactly Chimarrão.

      I`ll have to check them out to see if they serve this drink here in Portugal.

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      WebsiteDesigner 7 years ago

      Very interesting! I love learning about the local culture there. Great post! Hugs from Estero, FL!

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      Toni 7 years ago

      I love this! Thanks for writing it- I will try the Yerba asap.

      I finally have wi-fi so let's skype! Love from DC!