A resurgence in the traditional drink is offering rural communities independence and a sustainable alternative to industrial soy and cattle farming
Four men emerge from the intense heat and steam of the barbacuá into the cold winter’s night in the rural district of Edelira, southern Paraguay. They rest, leaning on pitchforks they have used to turn over the prized load of fragrant yerba mate leaves inside this traditional drying oven. The centuries-old design drives hot air from a fire on to the large wooden frame where the leaves sit.
“I control the leaf’s humidity through intuition,” says Lisandro Benítez, the group’s lead, or uru. “Too humid and it won’t have the right flavour, too hot and dry and it could catch fire.”