Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is a small tree native to the subtropical Atlantic forests of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. This evergreen member of the holly family was introduced to modern civilizations by the indigenous Guarani of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. An infusion, a mate drink is brewed from the dried leaves and stems of the tree, is consumed by millions of South Americans as a healthful alternative to coffee.
What does this yerba drink taste like? Well yerba mate lives up to its name ‘cup herb’, it is very herby or vegetal/grassy but can be very agreeable if made correctly! Water must NOT be boiling as this can cause bitterness. Steaming hot is quite sufficient. This is what Michael drank most Saturday mornings at the Local Tea Company tent at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market.
The traditional way to drink the infusion is from a hollowed out gourd through a straw called a ‘bombilla’, a reusable straw! A yerba mate tea set. The ritual is a common social practice shared with friends and carries a set of rules too. Usually one person, the host will prepare yerba mate and refill the yerba mate tea cup. The gourd is passed around often in a clockwise circle and re brewed many times. You will say ‘gracias’ and return the gourd to your host only when you have had sufficient! I talk to many visitors who have enjoyed this experience when traveling in South America.
I am a fan of our Organic Green Mate, pure clean. And I have tried to persuade others at the Selby Gardens Welcome center to join me, but my work continues.
Another option is our Roasted Mate. As the name suggests when preparing the herb it is toasted as part of the drying process, imparting a slight roasted taste. The leaf is dark and tastes almost coffee-like, and is a good choice if you are trying to ‘kick’ the coffee habit!
Michael prefers our Sweet Orange Mate which is a blend of green and roasted mate along with some citrus and licorice which tends to soften the ‘herbieness’ a little. Either way, you will receive a surge of energy and mental clarity which really gets you on the right track and sets you up for the day!
Like most teas, Yerba Mate is surrounded by legends. First discovered centuries ago by the indigenous people in South America, Yerba Mate has become revered as the ‘drink of the gods’ because people survived drought and famine drinking this tea. It is said to enhance health, vitality, and longevity and is now becoming an alternative to coffee in many other areas of the world too. With 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, high antioxidant levels and naturally occurring caffeine, Yerba Mate is a very well balanced stimulant!
Mate has some amazing qualities which make it a whole body tonic. The stimulation comes to us via 3 components called Xanthine Alkaloids: – Caffeine, Theophylline and Theobromine (found in chocolate!) This mighty combination along with minerals to support the nervous system and B vitamins to relax the muscles produce a balanced and long lasting physical and mental stimulation!
You may find comments about Yerba Mate having ‘more anti oxidants than green tea’ so lets just say Mate contains ‘abundant anti oxidants’ and is low in tannins, so can be brewed very strong without any bitterness which also makes it easier on the stomach. Along with a massive burst of energy, Mate will curb your appetite, raise your metabolism and burn calories i.e. loose weight. Sounds easy if all you have to do is drink Yerba Mate.
As with all teas you can change the experience to suit you. People always ask how to make yerba mate without a gourd? Brew your yerba mate drink your favorite way, whether in your favorite tea pot or a Travel Mug or a Tea Maker or a T sac. Give it a try and let us know what you experience.
Tea is a wonderful way to show your love, appreciation, respect or that you are thinking about someone. Perhaps the universal gift, as age, gender, geography, time of year, relationship status or any other boundary can be crossed safely, without confusion. While the gift of tea can be personal, the truth is everybody has a tea they like or love, some just don’t know it yet.
We recently added a Tea of the Month program, either 3 months or 6 months. That got us thinking about “gifting” tea. Here are a few thoughts to consider when giving the gift of tea…
1. Caffeine or Herbal (caffeine-free)
Caffeine is an important consideration, especially sensitive as we are here in Florida. Caffeinated teas are a great way to begin the day or a superb lift in the late afternoon, but to the novice or the beginning tea drinker, caffeine can create problems. A wonderfully flavored black tea like our Organic Strawbango might not be the best tea to drink after dinner. I always ask the server for their home number, when ordering herbal or caffeine free beverages, so if I am awake at 2:30 in the morning, I know who to call. When in doubt, go with an herbal, rooibos or fruit tea. You can’t go wrong with our Organic Peppermint, Selby Select Rooibos or Siesta Tea (fruit tea)
2. Loose leaf tea or teabags
We are quite partial to loose leaf tea at Local Tea Co, tea lovers and experienced tea drinkers tend to prefer a loose leaf tea. The tea typically will be of a better quality, fresher and a much better value. It cost money for the convenience of bagging tea! Loose leaf teas also provides more flexibility in how much tea you might want to brew; tea for two or three or a big pot for your sewing circle. That said, teabags especially biodegradable ones we offer, SOILON sachets, are very convenient for anyone traveling or those interested in trying a new tea. Check out the many options of our tea samplers available in loose leaf or in sachets. If they don’t love the tea, it can always be served to guests when they come over for a cuppa.
3. Flavored tea or and pure blends
Would you rather a gift of Organic Sarasotan Breakfast blend (an unflavored pure blended tea) or our Organic Earl Grey (flavored with the oil of Bergamot), this may be the easiest comparison. Though there are so many spectacular blended teas from our Goji Green or Jasmine green tea with flowers to our Cochin Masala Chai or our many rooibos blends. What is better than a strong cup of pinhead gunpowder green tea or a pure Organic Sencha. Maybe a pot of our ruby Organic Red Berries that you can share with the kids or enjoy as an iced tea later in the day. Tough one, but that is why you are an expert gift giver, and you really can’t go too wrong!!
Is the gift for a serious tea drinker, someone loaded with tea accessories? Do they really need another tea ball with an elf Fob? Go with an expensive porcelain mug with painted flowers. Our cat mugs sold incredibly well at our Selby Gardens Tea Shop, and they still sell floral mugs in the Garden Shop. Or for a more modern gift, one of the newer steep-in-one traveling mugs. There are lots of options for tea lovers, and for the newbie just starting their tea journey, a box of tea bags or a few mesh balls of different sizes or tea spoons will spark a conversation. Or get them an inspired gift, maybe a bamboo tea basket and challenge them to figure it out! And there is also the whole category of things that can be added to tea that make for a wonderful gifts, honey or jams are always welcome.
Most important is not to overthink your gift. The person you are gifting is going to appreciate the gesture you are making, and the thought behind this gift. They will love it as much they love you. Find a clever and creative tea, we recommend our Mable’s Rose Rooibos or the tropical fruity Mote Beach Tea. Find a tea that has some meaning, or to be realistic, something that can easily be ‘Regifted’.