In the Guarani culture, yerba mate had a social role beyond its nutritional benefits. It was an object of worship and ritual, used as a kind of currency for trading with other pre-Hispanic peoples. It is also believed that after the creation of different gods, the Guarani people gathered together to drink yerba mate.
At the end of the sixteenth century the first Jesuits arrived to evangelize the Guarani. At first, the Jesuits considered it dangerous to drink mate. Later on, however, yerba mate was accepted and its use was encouraged as a solution to the problem of alcohol abuse in the reservations.
Yerba mate evolved to become the main source of income of the Jesuits. In 1645 permission was granted to market the product, and by the end of the XVII century they began to cultivate yerba in the vicinity of the reservations. The Jesuits created “yerbales orchards,” and thus paid tribute to the king of Spain.