Brazil has a historical connection with spices, teas, and healing herbs. For years, our economy was based on the spice trade. Before that, native peoples already used spices, herbs, and teas for treating illnesses and as a mark of our culture.
Today, Brazil continues to honor its legacy and stands out in the production and export of black pepper and yerba mate, for example. These are products that, throughout the years, have been gaining in quality, technology, and productivity. Both sectors generate jobs, help improve communities, and are strictly aligned with sustainability standards.
Black pepper is the main spice traded to supply the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries. Brazil is one of its main producers and exporters, with 90% of the production concentrated in Pará state. This is due to the productivity and longevity of the plant in that Amazonian area.
Brazilian black pepper stands out for its quality. The sector is constantly improving its practices and tools to prevent physical, chemical, and biological contaminants to ensure the product’s safety. It is a typical small farmer crop, with most cultivation areas of less than 3 ha. In 2021, the export volume surpassed 51,600 tons.
The ritual of drinking chimarrão—a hot tea made of yerba mate—was adopted by Spanish and Portuguese colonizers when they arrived in the Americas’ southernmost part and met the Guaranis. People from this ethnicity—who lived in the region of the Paraná, Paraguay, and Uruguay river basins—drank yerba mate routinely.
The tradition lives on for centuries and now is traveling to different parts of the world. International buyers are interested in many aspects of the plant. Ilex paraguariensis (the scientific name of yerba mate) contains a significant amount of caffeine, saponins, polyphenols, xanthines, theophylline, theobromine, folic acid, tannins, minerals, and vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, and E). Therefore, it functions as an antioxidant, diuretic, laxative, stimulant, antidiabetic, antiobesity, antibacterial, antifungal, and hypocholesterolemic; it also improves digestion.
When ready to drink as chimarrão or tea, yerba mate can differ in color, texture, and taste. The final product varies from brand to brand, from different harvests, and by the water temperature when prepared. However, in general terms, yerba mate is light and fresh, with some bitter and toasted flavor.
According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), there are approximately 400 companies and 500 mate brands in the country. Every year, Brazil produces over 500 thousand tons of yerba mate and has great potential to increase its production. Nearly 80% of that is consumed internally.