What Is Yerba Mate Barbacuá Drying Method?

Slow and dedicated. Artisanal and natural. This is the dehydration process to which the yerba mate leaves are subjected. Leaves are exposed to the heat of the wood fire of a select group of woods, to radiate an unmistakable flavor and aroma. This is the Barbacuá type drying system used by the Guarani over 400 years ago.

Thanks to INTA support, group "Cambio Rural" of 62 producers and 16 family dryers from Oberá, Misiones, recovered the tradition and became the Cooperativa de Productores de Yerba Mate "Barbacuá" Limitada. They also market their products at fairs such as Caminos y Sabores.

"We were on the verge of disappearing," recalled Héctor Kwaszka, one of the producers of herbs belonging to the Cooperative, who assured: "If we had not had the support of the INTA extension agents, we would be doing something else," he assured.

“Before, those of us who produced under the barbacuá system felt ashamed of our work. We were noted for having stayed in history, ”Kwaszka explained with nostalgia and assured:“ Today, together with INTA, we managed to promote our yerba and give it prestige, in addition to increasing our production due to improvements in the management of plantations and the incorporation of technology".

Among the many difficulties they had in making the yerba, it was impossible for them to compete with the large industries, due to the high costs of this drying system. It is that, while the yerbateros producers under barbacuá system dry 10 thousand kilos of green leaf per day, the big companies reach 150 thousand.

In this sense, Luis Barbaro, in partnership with INTA Oberá, Misiones, who participated in supporting producers in the organization and training process, explained: “We work together with them to rescue and enhance this differentiated product due to its mild flavor and pleasant aroma with more than 400 years of history ”.

In reference to INTA's contribution, Barbaro highlighted: “The most interesting thing was to detect the non-explicit demand of small producers and dryers that were left out of the herbal chain and to be able, together with them, to build a development strategy that contemplates the different aspects to make them visible ”.

As a result of the joint work, a Cooperative was formed, a fair price was agreed for the product to be marketed under the 14 brands that work, while they process the collective brand and incorporate tourism and fairs to improve the promotion of their products.

In addition, they added technology related to soil and plant management that allowed them to increase production, while improving the production and loading process with the installation of grids, smoke traps, and the automation of loading. from raw material to barbacuá.

For Barbaro, "this yerba is the right combination of specific facilities and supplies and local knowledge", while for Kwaszka it is "part of their history, of their ancestors, of their grandparents".

This yerba is a differentiated product that arises from a slow and dedicated dehydration process to which the yerba mate leaves are subjected. Being exposed for many hours to the heat of the wood fire of a select group of woods, they radiate an unmistakable flavor and aroma.

This ancestral drying system has numerous advantages: the quality of the green leaf as raw material, due to the proximity of the plantations to the small dryers distributed in the interior of rural areas, and the simple logistics, without intermediaries.

Along these lines, Barbaro pointed out that the artisan work of this system includes rural families in a large part of the production and elaboration process. In addition, it allows zonal economic development –which involves small smallholder producers and owners of small processing plants– and because it is a cultural reservoir.


6th Jul 2020

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