Mate — Argentina’s pride and soul — has been removed from a list of possible carcinogens by the World Health Organization (WHO) (along with coffee, but who cares). Rejoice! However, before you take a long sip from your bombilla in relief, experts apparently found that although mate does not cause cancer, the temperature at which it is drunk might.
Hold up, what? A study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of WHO, published in the Lancelot Oncology Journal yesterday states that beverages drunk at 65°C or higher could be tied to oesophageal cancer.
Unlucky for us, we apparently drink our mate at 70°C, according to experts cited by The Guardian.
“Mate is not only prepared very hot, but drunk through a metal straw that delivers it directly into the throat,” explained Dr. Dana Loomis, a specialist speaking to the UK publication. According to the research, oesophageal cancer is more common in South America than in the rest of the world.
The IARC created what it calls monographs on the causes of cancer, using a classification system ranging from group one, where the link is certain (for example, smoking); to group four, where there is probably no link. The most recent study placed hot drinks within group 2A, meaning that they are “probably carcinogenic to humans.” If coffee and mate are served cold, they fall into group three, which means that there is insufficient evidence to think they cause cancer.
— PAHO/WHO (@pahowho) June 16, 2016
“10 years ago almost all Argentines, around 95 percent, were drinking mate with boiled water. The idea was to have mate at the point of boiling,” explained Valeria Trapaga, a yerba mate sommelier speaking to Clarín. “Five years ago there was a change, and the habits of consumption changed. More caution is now paid to the temperature of the water, with 70 percent of drinkers consuming their mate almost at boiling point, while 30 percent don’t have it as hot.”
The sommelier believes that a temperature of between 70 and 75°C is a good temperature for drinking, which she says does not harm your health.
Trapaga was kind enough to offer up some advice on getting the water temperature just right: “In general, it takes around four or five minutes for the water to reach roughly 60 degrees. After this, I recommend that you take the kettle and try it against your skin. From there, put the kettle back on for another minute until it reaches between 70 and 75 percent. If the water is bubbling inside the kettle, it has already passed this temperature.”
Legal disclaimer: The Bubble is not responsible for any burns suffered from pressing a hot kettle against your skin.