Yerba mate tea is known as an energy booster beverage that has a similar effect as espresso. However, this famous drink is neither a tea nor a coffee. Then, what is it?
Yerba Mate is a plant that is part of the holly genus species found in South America. Its leaves are brewed to make a stimulating, caffeinated beverage. Referred to as the “drink of the Gods”, in some regions, it is even more popular than coffee.
Yerba Mate that is wild grown is the most desirous, because it is free from growth chemicals, making it organic. It is also possible to cultivate it without using chemicals; organic is the healthier path to choose.
Organic yerba may cost slightly more than non-organic, but the benefits are worth the higher price. Plus, it tastes better; growing conditions can affect the taste.
- 1 Yerba Mate Tea Origins
- 2 How Does Yerba Mate Grow?
- 3 Yerba Mate vs. Coffee vs. Green Tea
- 4 Top 5 Yerba Mate Brands
- 5 Yerba Mate Benefits
- 6 Side Effects
- 7 Yerba Mate Preparation
- 8 Consumption
- 9 Yerba Mate Nutrition Facts
- 10 Yerba Mate Accessories
- 11 Yerba Mate Flavors
- 12 Where to Buy Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate Tea Origins
Yerba mate was discovered by the Guarani, the indigenous people of Paraguay, and the Tupi in Southern Brazil. Its leaves were not only used to make drinks, but also used for medicinal purposes, to maintain stamina, and as currency.
It was widely considered a gift from the gods. When the Europeans colonized the region, they soon learned the many benefits of yerba mate and began extolling its virtues.
Eventually, the Jesuits learned how to domesticate the wild yerba and cultivate it for trade.
There are different types of yerba mate tea, depending upon which region you are in. Each of the four main regions has slight differences.
Argentina is the largest producer of mate in the world and the most popular one in the United States. Argentine producers use all parts of the plant when making their drink.
They use mostly medium-sized leaves, stems that are about a centimeter long, and powder. This style is called ‘con palo‘ and is considered very balanced.
Paraguayan yerba mate contains more powder, and smaller leaves and stems. This blend is more challenging to drink at the beginning, as the taste of one batch can change from day-to-day.
In Paraguay, they make their mate with cold water, as opposed to hot water. They call this style tereré and drink it from an animal horn instead of the traditional gourd.
Yerba mate in Uruguay comes mainly from Brazil, but the Uruguayans drink it more than any other country. Their style is all powder and small leaves; they do not include any stems.
This style can be a bit harsh tasting and is not a good first experience for this beverage. When prepared properly, it can be delicious; it has much more flavor than the other varieties and is creamy.
Brazilians call their drink ‘erva mate‘ or ‘chimarrao‘. It is made mostly from powder, with no leaves or stem, and is very close to matcha green tea.
This version is very light and creamy because the mate is not aged the way the other countries age theirs. Brazil likes its mate dried and packaged quickly.
How Does Yerba Mate Grow?
Yerba mate is produced from holly leaves from an evergreen plant that is native to only a few regions in South America.
The plant can grow in different settings, but the best tasting mate comes from leaves that have been grown in the shade of the rainforest. When it has not been grown directly in the sun, its leaves are more flavorful and nutrient-rich.
When grown in the wild, its leaves are harvested only every other year. In a controlled environment, the leaves grow more quickly, so they are harvested once each winter.
Yerba Mate vs. Coffee vs. Green Tea
Though caffeinated like coffee and green tea are, yerba mate has some stark differences from these two other wildly popular beverages. It has the same amount of caffeine as coffee does, but it does not make the drinker jittery.
Unless you are super sensitive to caffeine, you will feel the body and mind stimulation long after drinking yerba mate. Coffee drinkers, however, often suffer a caffeine crash at some point.
Yerba mate has adaptogenic properties, which means it can regulate the body’s systems. It is similar to nutrients found in tea that promote a sense of calm.
It shares many similar properties with green tea, too, except for one significant difference. Mate’s antioxidants are much more concentrated. It has over 50 more chemicals than found in green tea, making its benefits way more effective.
Top 5 Yerba Mate Brands
Cruz de Malta
Cruz de Malta is a medium-bodied mate from Argentina. It has a mild flavor, with no bitterness but a bit of a smoky taste. Because of the mild taste, this is probably one of the best yerba mates for beginners to try.
This product has no stems, only leaves, and dust. It tastes best in a gourd, and not brewed as tea, though you can buy it either way. It also comes in flavors, such as orange or lemon, if you want an extra twist.
Cruz de Malta is an inexpensive yerba mate, and even better because you can make one serving go a long way. It steeps multiple times very well.
This organic yerba mate is both smooth and bitter, with a similar taste to green tea. It gives a nice energy boost to the drinker without creating an overenergized feeling.
Guayaki is a company that is based in the U.S. and is the most popular yerba mate beverage sold in the United States. It is likely because it is a very versatile beverage; it comes in many forms, even canned and energy shots.
Guayaki is also a very eco-conscious company, too. They promote fair trade farming and saving the rainforests.
Canarias might be grown in Brazil, but by definition, it is an Uruguayan yerba mate. In fact, this brand is quite popular in Uruguay. It has a vibrant taste that is slightly bitter and is similar to dark chocolate.
This specific mate includes many, many flavors in just one sip. It may be too complex for beginners but is delicious for more experienced drinkers. It is incredibly creamy, which is because its content is mostly dust.
Trying Canarias for the first might be a little weird and more complicated than you thought. But as soon as you get familiar with it, you’ll understand why those who love mate drink Canarias.
Rosamonte is one of the top brands sold in Argentina. Its taste is also similar to dark chocolate, with a lemony hinting scent. It may also be too harsh for beginners. For more advanced mate drinkers, it has a “perfect body”.
Like most mates, this one helps with energy and concentration. What makes this different is that Rosamonte also loosens up tight muscles.
Don’t expect to feel relaxed after drinking a cup or Rosamonte, though. This beverage will make you productive. Be careful not to drink this beverage at night (but I will not hold you down if you want to try)!
The oldest yerba mate company around, Taragui has been making mate tea for over 100 years. It is another Argentinian company, and possibly one of the best selling brands in Argentina.
Taragui is excellent as a morning drink. It is simple but slightly acidic with no sweetness. Unlike some other brands, this one retains its flavor throughout drinking. Taragui is decent for more refills, just not too many.
Do not use this brand, however, if you want to make an iced yerba mate. It doesn’t blend well with cold water.
Yerba Mate Benefits
Did you know that losing weight can include drinking a delicious beverage?
Yerba mate can aid weight loss, though not all by itself. If you pair this drink with moderate exercise and healthy habits, it can help those pounds shed a little bit quicker.
The caffeine found in yerba mate boosts your metabolism, using up more of your body’s energy and burning fat. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it also increases your energy and prevents water retention.
If you are feeling a bit peckish in the afternoon, drink a cup of mate. It will suppress your appetite, so you don’t ruin your healthy eating habits with junk.
One gourdful of this beverage will help fill you up. It is also shown to improve your mood, which can prevent you from emotional eating. Comfort foods tend to be fatty and high calorie.
Improves Brain Function
Yerba mate contains a moderate amount of caffeine, so it increases your alertness without the jitters that come with coffee. Caffeine stimulates dopamine, which promotes good feelings, giving you the ability to concentrate and focus better.
The polyphenols in this beverage promote brain health, as they are antioxidants. It may also improve your short-term memory!
Yerba mate is famous for giving you a boost with no crash. Drinkers report feeling a calm energy lift that is not at all jittery or frenetic. Coffee drinkers famously get the shakes after a cup of joe. Also, you aren’t left feeling tired after your yerba effects wear off.
The reason for all of this is that the components in yerba mate make your body pull on your fat for fuel, giving you longer stamina.
Antioxidants reduce the risk of many diseases, so they are significant for your body. They reduce the oxidation in your cells, which causes aging, inflammation, and cardiovascular problems.
Yerba mate contains more antioxidants than green tea, 11 polyphenols in all. Polyphenols have many implications and benefits for overall health: metabolism, brain, and immune system.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Yerba mate contains theobromine, which is a vasodilator. It relaxes the blood vessels, which allows for better blood flow, effectively lowering blood pressure. Caffeine, however, is a vasoconstrictor. It may increase blood pressure.
One study supported that yerba mate components reduce stress on liver cells, boosting detoxification. The-many antioxidants may also prevent liver inflammation.
Many devoted drinkers like yerba mate for the effects they feel after drinking it. The theobromine acts as an anti-depressant and can make you feel good.
Meanwhile, theophylline boosts that with a mental pick-me-up. The result is a feeling of calm and clarity. And the moderate level of caffeine does not leave you feeling jittery.
While there are a plethora of potential positives for this beverage, one must consider some yerba mate side effects. The most common side effect having in mind is that of caffeine.
If you are a person who is highly sensitive to caffeine, you are likely to feel unwell after drinking it. Typical symptoms of headache, nausea, and high blood pressure are common yerba mate side effects for people sensitive to caffeine.
The casual yerba drinker is unlikely to have any risk of drinking this beverage. There may, however, be a tremendous risk for heavy drinkers of yerba mate.
Some cases of cancer in the digestive tract and upper respiratory tract have been tenuously linked to excessive yerba mate drinking.
The leaves of the yerba mate plant contain the same carcinogens found in tobacco and grilled meat. Ingested in small amounts, this is not dangerous, so don’t be concerned about drinking mate in moderation.
It is not determined yet if drinking yerba while breastfeeding or pregnant is safe, so perhaps hold off in the meantime.
Yerba Mate Preparation
There are many modern ways to prepare this drink. These days you can make yerba mate in a French press or by using tea bags or tea strainers. The original standard preparation is best, however, if you want to get the full, traditional experience.
The traditional way to prepare and drink yerba is in a gourd, known as the mate. These were initially a hollowed-out gourd, but today you can purchase one that has been manufactured from other materials. After you place the herb, or the yerba, inside, you shake or crush it.
Whatever method you are using, whether a gourd or tea bags, you need first to moisten the herbs with some cold water. Just a little bit will do, enough to get the yerba wet and release a bit of the flavor.
Then you pour hot water into the gourd or mug. Be sure that the water is not boiling, or it will destroy the flavor. Allow it to sit for five minutes and voila; there is your perfect energy-boosting beverage!
How to Prepare Cold Yerba Mate Tea
Tereré is the popular cold version of yerba found in Paraguay. It is an incredibly simple way to make this beverage.
- Fill a container with cold water and ice.
- Add lime juice and some of your preferred sweetener.
- Add some loose yerba leaves to your mug or cup.
- Pour the cold water into your cup with the loose yerba mate.
- Use your bombilla to drink up!
There is a tradition involved in drinking yerba mate socially. It is essentially a ritual, and certain etiquette must be observed.
To drink traditional, hot yerba mate:
- Fill the chosen container or gourd three-quarters full with loose yerba mate.
- Cover and shake. Turn to a 45-degree angle and open the lid.
- Wet the mix with just a little bit of cold water, and let it sit.
- Insert the bombilla against the wet mate.
- Add hot, but not boiling, water in small amounts to your pile.
- Do not stir. Sip. Enjoy!
An important note on etiquette: if you are offered the gourd, drink all of it before you return it to the person who offered it to you.
On average, South Americans can drink up to 4 liters per day, while Americans might drink up to 2 liters per day. Your tolerance and tastes will dictate how much you will be able to drink.
Just keep in mind that you are consuming an herb, so there will be both positive and negative effects of this beverage.
Yerba Mate Nutrition Facts
Yerba mate is packed full of many nutrients. An important point to remember is that the amount of each nutrient, and sometimes even the specific nutrients themselves, will vary.
It is because the growing conditions of the plant from which your mate is harvested will affect each batch. Plants that grew in the shade, for example, have more nutrients than plants grown in the sun.
Different types of soil will also determine which nutrients, and now much of each. There are a great many variables to take into account.
Yerba mate contains a moderate amount of caffeine, falling in between coffee and tea with 85 mg per cup. As with tea and coffee, the brewing time can affect how much caffeine is in each cup.
High concentrations of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, and E have been identified in yerba mate. These vitamins are known to boost your immune system and to promote health.
Not only does yerba mate boast a large assortment of vitamins, but it is incredibly rich in minerals, too. The main minerals are:
Yerba mate itself has a very low-calorie count, only fiver calories per cup on average. Be aware of the yerba energy drinks, though. Those contain many other ingredients, including a lot of sugar, that drive up the calorie count.
Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that plays a role in cancer prevention, as well as against stroke and some chronic diseases.
Yerba mate contains 11 different kinds of polyphenols. The brands with shredded leaves have more than the ones with stems and dust.
Yerba mate receives its anti-inflammatory benefits from flavonoids. They can also relieve many of the effects of chronic inflammation.
Saponins provide the medicinal properties in many plants, for example, ginseng. They may have an influence over the immune system, lower cholesterol, and even protect against some cancers.
Saponins taste bitter and give yerba mate its taste.
Yerba Mate Accessories
Yerba Mate Gourd and Cup
There are many different vessels you can drink yerba mate from, whether you choose the traditional gourd or not.
Original mate drinkers did drink from a dried gourd from a gourd vine, and that tradition is still strong. Each gourd is distinct and can be decorated.
The gourd must be cured before use to prevent cracking, molding, and to enhance the flavor. Never put boiling water in your gourd, because that will crack it.
The two main types of drinking vessels for yerba mate is the calabash gourd, the original container, and a wooden gourd. The wood gourd is the most fragile of your choices.
Other types of cups, often shaped like a gourd, include:
Ceramic – these are the easiest to maintain and use and are the best for beginners.
Glass – very fragile, but beautiful.
Silicone – a very non-traditional choice but can be super convenient.
Guampa -this is a vessel that is used in Paraguay for drinking tereré.
Stainless Steel – very easy to maintain and keeps the mate’s temperature controlled.
Bombilla is the traditional straw used for sipping loose leaf yerba mate. There are a couple of options for your bombilla.
You want your straw to be appropriate for the cut of your yerba mate. The more dust your mix contains, the smaller holes you want your bombilla to have.
Double Action Bombilla – It is better for yerba mates with more stems and leaves. It has a coil and slits to filter the drink.
Spoon Bombilla – It is best for mixtures with more dust but can work well with any type of yerba mate. These are useful in scraping the side of your gourd.
Yerba Mate Flavors
Though simple, plain yerba mate is the most popular kind around the world, there are other options. If you are looking for the perks of drinking mate but aren’t a fan of the taste, you can find flavored mates.
Herbal and fruit blends are sold. There is also another option called Guayusa, which is made from another, similar plant. It has extra caffeine and is citrusy and sweet.
Not to mention the many bottled energy and tea drinks on the market that contain yerba mate.
Where to Buy Yerba Mate
If you want to find yerba mate in your hometown, look no further than your local health food store. They will likely have a decent selection for you to browse.
It will make it easy to buy a couple of different brands to experiment with. You may even find one or two of the most popular brands I mentioned earlier in your major grocery store or chain retailer.
If you want to buy yerba mate tea online, there are a vast number of websites eager to help you. Besides, you will find a much more extensive selection online than you would in your hometown.
Generally, you can go directly to a particular company’s website to purchase from them. You can also find selections at more common, dominating selling sites such as Amazon.