South American ‘mate’ tea a long-time Lebanese hit

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A Druze man prepares mate infusion at his house in Lebanon's mountain village of Barouk, on March 4, 2014Barouk (Lebanon) (AFP) – Steam rises from a gourd filled with yerba mate as Wissam al-Halabi takes a sip, seated on a Lebanese mountain slope where the South American drink has become a local tradition. It is particularly popular among adherents of the secretive Druze faith, who are scattered throughout the eastern Mediterranean’s Levant region, mostly in Lebanon and Syria. “It’s from Argentina originally and we’re told it came here hundreds of years ago, brought by Lebanese migrants who came back from there,” says Samah Halawi, a Druze sheikh. Latin America became a prime destination for economic migrants from the Levant, particularly in the late 19th century, and a large community of their descendants still exists in Argentina and elsewhere in the region.

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