What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba Mate, also known as “the drink of the gods,” is a traditional South American beverage used as a healing herb to provide stamina, sustain life, and add vitality to those who drink it. It is made from the leaves of the evergreen holly plant llex paraguariensis. These leaves are ground down and steeped in hot water or used as a cold infusion known as tereré.
Yerba Mate, the “tea” beverage we know and love, is actually not a tea at all. Black, green, oolong and white tea are all derived from the Camellia Sinensis tea plant; all other herbs that are steeped in water have been referred to as tea, but are not derived from the same plant.
Yerba mate is derived from the holly plant species l. paraguariensis, which is native to South America. Before the Europeans came over and started to colonize the Americas, the indigenous people of current-day Paraguay were the first to cultivate and use yerba mate. Once the Jesuits learn about its potential for making money, they exploited it and spread its popularity throughout the region. Yerba mate is now widespread throughout the world.
How is Yerba Mate cultivated?
The holly tree, from which yerba mate is derived, is an evergreen tree. This means that it has leaves for every season. The tree also grows red berries and fragrant blossoms. The plant starts off as a shrub but can mature into trees anywhere between 10 to 15 meters tall.
When the yerba mate plant has grown away from direct sunlight, underneath the umbrella of the rich rainforest, it retains more of its flavor and health benefits making it a higher quality mate. While yerba mate is grown and processed primarily in Argentina and Brazil, it is also grown all over South America.
The yerba mate trees are carefully pruned by skilled workers in order to retain the health of the tree for future harvests. The branches are then cut down smaller leaving only the leaves and small, tender stems. These bundles are then heated, dried, dehydrated then crushed, and cut. Sometimes, the leaves and stems are gently roasted for a darker, richer flavor.
How is Yerba Mate prepared?
Traditionally, yerba mate is prepared in a hollowed gourd, which is the fleshy, hard skin of a fruit or squash. Nowadays, a gourd can be made out of wood, metal, or ceramic. A special straw known as a bombilla is used to filter and drink the yerba mate.
The yerba mate is then placed in the gourd about 1/2 to 3/4 full. With a hand over the mouth of the gourd, the contents are then shaken to even out the consistency. Once you are done, you should maintain the yerba mate within the gourd at a 45-degree angle to make room for the bombilla as well as the water. You’ll then want to saturate most of the leaves with cool water which prevents scorching the leaves when adding the hot water. You’ll then pour the hot water into the gourd close to the bombilla and you’re ready to enjoy.
The Yerba Mate Ritual
While yerba mate was discovered by the indigenous Guarani people of Paraguay, the popularity of mate may have originated with the gauchos (or cowboys) of Argentina. The naturally occurring stimulants found in yerba mate gave the gauchos energy for the long harvest hauls and cattle drives. Sipping yerba mate became a social ritual consumed in the mornings or after a long day.
It all begins with the cebador who is in charge of preparing the mate. After the cebador has prepared the mate, they will be the first to drink from the gourd until all the liquid is consumed. The gourd is then refilled with the hot water and passed to the next person in the circle. That’s right, the same bombilla and gourd are shared amongst those in the circle. Think of it as the peace pipe tradition of the Native Americans. It is passed around in the circle as a token of fellowship.
Once the next person in the circle consumes the entire gourd, it is passed back to the cebador who refills and passes it to the next person. This is repeated until all the water the cebador has in his thermos is gone. It is important that the bombilla remain in the same place, not moved or stirred. This is bad form and can gunk up the bombilla filter. It is also important that the gourd makes its way back to the cebador and onto the next person in the circle, never skipping around. When you have had enough, you simply say thank you and the gourd will not be passed to you again.
Health Benefits of Drinking Yerba Mate
The health benefits of yerba mate are vast. Yerba mate is rich in plant nutrients and antioxidants such as polyphenols, saponins, and energy-boosting compounds such as caffeine and theobromine. A cup of yerba mate can contain up to 85mg of caffeine which is more than a regular cup of tea.
Yerba mate may also help your immune system by providing it with much of the vitamins and minerals the body needs such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and even zinc. It is also important to note that yerba mate contains seven out of nine essential amino acids which are the body’s protein building blocks.
The Short and Skinny
Yerba mate is rich in its history and tradition. It is the beverage that can sustain you and bring you closer to friends and family as you enjoy its amazing flavor and energy-boosting, nutritional benefits. At Fusion Teas, we offer yerba mate as an additional alternative to coffee and we offer a wide variety of flavors and infusions. If you are looking for quality mate that fits your taste check out some of our options below.
This traditional green yerba mate is simple and straightforward. This single ingredient mate is earthy, grassy, and vegetal. It’s robust in flavor and in its natural, energy-boosting compounds. When preparing yerba mate remember to use water that is not boiling to prevent burning the leaves and turning the mate bitter.
This yerba mate is gently roasted, as opposed to the more common green yerba mate. This gives the leaves and twigs a darker color and a richer, roasted flavor. This spicier and bolder blend of yerba mate, rooibos, cocoa bits, coconut flakes, cinnamon, cloves, and cornflowers will give you a plethora of flavors perfect for getting your day off to the right start. If you love chai or are looking to replace your coffee habit, give Good Morning Mate a try.
This newest yerba mate member of the Fusion Teas family is energizing and exotic. The fruitiness of the guava and the earthy, herbal profile of the yerba mate meld perfectly in this fresh and fruity delight. If you’re looking to liven up your day and add a little excitement to your normal cup, add some Guava Mate into your pantry.
This mango explosion of fruit including hints of citrus complements the grassy and vegetal yerba mate perfectly. It’s sweet and satisfying and perfect as a cold brew concoction during the hot summer months. If you’re looking for a mango mate that just gets the flavor profile right, then this is your kind of cup.