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.