By Verónica Dalto
Buenos Aires, Jun 16 (EFE).- Argentine maté makers are hoping that the caffeine-rich herbal drink will benefit from the global exposure of the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, where it will be given international visibility by stars such as Lionel Messi, who is often snapped sipping on a gourd of the traditional beverage.
Maté already has a foothold in the wider Middle East region, where it is consumed by some communities in Syria and Lebanon.
“It’s the first such time a World Cup has been held — if we leave out Argentina — in a location so close to a community that consumes such quantities of maté,” Carlos Coppoli, commercial director of the maté company Piporé, tells Efe.
Argentina exported 35.5 million kilograms of yerba-maté, the plant used to make the drink, in 2021, according to the National Institute of Yerba Mate (INYM).
The leading destination by far was Syria, which imported 23.1 million kilos of the produce while Lebanon received 650,000 kilograms, Argentina’s national institute of statistics reported.
Members of the Syrian and Lebanese diaspora have popularized the drink elsewhere in the Middle East.
Piporé, the leading brand in Syria and Lebanon, also exports to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In Argentina, where a record 282.8 million kilos of yerba-maté was consumed in 2021, maté is traditionally drunk from a gourd using a straw that doubles up as a filter. Syrians, however, prefer to drink with a straw from a small glass.
Exports of yerba-maté to World Cup host countries tend to increase slightly but this year “expectations are a little higher,” said Gustavo Redondo, commercial director of CBSe, another maté company.
He expects sales to Qatar to increase by 30% compared to previous tournaments.
Football players have become ambassadors of the drink internationally, most notably the likes of Messi, who is regularly photographed with a drink in his hand and a flask under his arm.
Others include Uruguay’s Luis Suárez, France’s Antoine Griezmann — who learned to love the drink during his time at Real Sociedad — and even England’s Harry Kane.
“Football players have given an additional boost to yerba-maté,” Redondo said.
Coppoli added: “It ends up being something authentic and that’s the best thing that can happen for maté.
“It’s great that Messi drinks maté because he likes it and not because he is paid to do it.”EFE