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Steam rises from a gourd of yerba mate as Wissam al-Halabi takes another sip. Though the slightly bitter hot drink originates from South America, it has become a local tradition on this mountain in the Chouf, where residents have enjoyed it for more than a hundred years. Made from the leaves of a rainforest holly tree, yerba mate has been cultivated in South America for centuries. Ghada al-Halawi, another Barouk resident, likes to drink mate first thing in the morning, instead of coffee or tea.Syria is the world's biggest mate importer, bringing in more than 24,000 tons in 2012 .Argentina exported nearly 1,500 tons to Lebanon in 2012, making it the country's third-biggest market.
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