Mate is more than just a drink. It’s a way of life that breaks hierarchical structures creating a circular communal culture. Communication and community are the foundation stones of Mate philosophy and these sharing and caring aspects are not only found amongst the drinkers, they are an integral way of life amongst the makers.

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Barâo Erva Mate is a household name in South Brazil; their colorful vacuum packed mates dominate shelves across the country and locally as well as internationally they are renowned for their high quality fresh green mates. For the Gaucho abroad, a package of Barâo is a guarantee that they will encounter the flavors of their homeland.

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Founded in 1951 by Etelvino Picolo, a pioneer who followed his dreams this family run business carries his tradition and vision further as it enters the third generation. The plaque under Sr. Picolo’s statue in the town square of Barâo de Cotegiepe eulogizes him as a devoted father an honorable leader and hard worker with an innovative eye who always sought union, harmony and joy. He lived by the motto that the biggest risk in life is to do nothing, and he put his energy into creating a Mate empire.

Sergio preparing a roasted mate to drink after dinner

His values have been passed down, Sergio Picolo, shares his father’s humility and granddaughter Ana Paula Picolo is prepared to take this vision further. Arriving in Cotegipe on one of the coldest nights in the past 50 years, we were greeted by at the gate by Sergio, (who is often the first and last person to leave the factory).

Although we were invited to dinner at his home across the road, he was insistent on first dropping the company driver at home, so that he would not have to walk in the cold. Sitting in the office and taking executive decisions might be part of Sergio’s responsibilities but he is also there when needed to supervise the unloading of a truck in the middle of the night or as he shared to help a driver to wash one as he had done earlier that day.

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The next morning, although it was a Saturday, Ana Paula was at the factory at 7.30am to meet us and plan our next export……….