Some of you may already drink yerba mate on a regular basis, or you have only heard small mentions of yerba mate and how wonderful it is, or you may have never even heard of it at all. But if you enjoy your daily cup of coffee you may want to make the switch to yerba mate after what I have to tell you.
Yerba mate is actually made from the stems and leaves of the small yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) tree, a member of the holly family native to Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. Yerba mate has been awarded such titles as “The Drink of the Gods” and “the green gold of the Indios”. It was discovered centuries ago by the native people of South America and has been consumed to increase energy, health and longevity. It is the national drink of Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina, and is commonly consumed throughout South America.
- Yerba mate contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and antioxidants.
- It is a wonderful alternative to coffee as it provides the same vitality and mental clairty without the jitters.
- It has 52 more active compounds than green tea, and has higher polyphenol and antioxidant concentrations than green or black tea.
- It has been used by indigenous people in South America to aid in digestion and scientific studies have found that it does this by increasing bile flow.
- The polyphenols found in teas, including yerba mate, have been shown to help prevent bad breath by reducing bacterial growth.
- There are many other health benefits of yerba mate, a wonderful list can be found in a PDF document titled “Yerba Mate – Healthy Energy Beverage”.
The Caffeine Debate
Many people may refer to the stimulant found in yerba mate as “mateine”, but most research suggests that there are multiple stimulants in yerba mate including caffeine. According to the Yerba Mate Association of the Americas,
yerba mate contains a total of 3 xanthine alkaloids: caffeine; theobromine (euphoric stimulant associated with chocolate); and theophylline (primary stimulant in green tea). The combination of all 3 of the xanthine alkaloids is unique to mate – and results in ‘the balanced buzz’.
This is why yerba mate does not normally produce the harsh side effects, including headaches, jitters, and upset stomach, for those with caffeine sensitivies. Still many believe that the stimulant in yerba mate is not caffeine but that current scientific tests cannot distinguish between caffeine and whatever the stimulant may be. Guayaki, one of the leading yerba mate producers, calls yerba mate “naturally caffeinated” to be as scientifically accurate as possible. Guayaki even provides a chart called Energy Meter that displays the comparative amounts of “caffeine” per serving size in some of their beverages along with other common teas and coffee drinks. In the case of traditional loose leaf yerba mate, 8oz will contain approximately 85 mg of “natural caffeine” compared to an 8oz cup of brewed coffee, which has approximately 135 mg of caffeine.
Buying Yerba Mate
If you search on the internet for yerba mate you will find numerous websites to buy it, but some of the major companies that produce yerba mate are Guayaki, Eco Teas, and Aviva, Ltd. I cannot vouch for the later two companies, but my experience with Guayaki and their products has been phenomenal. The company’s story is awesome, though I may be biased, since the company was started by two students from my alma mater, Cal Poly, SLO. Many of the companies that produce yerba mate including the three above, sell organic shade-grown yerba mate and are committed to fair trade. In the case of Guayaki, they goes as far as to claim that you can reduce your carbon footprint by drinking Guayaki Yerba Mate as opposed to other commercial beverages.
Drinking Yerba Mate
Yerba mate can be purchased both loose leaf, in tea bags, pre-steeped, and combined with fruit juices and other teas. Traditional yerba mate is drunk from a gourd with a bombilla, a metal filter straw. But the possibilities seem limitless for yerba mate and both Guayaki and Eco Teas provide recipe pages you can experiment with.
And while I do love a good cup of coffee, I cannot deny how much I love the smell of freshly brewed yerba mate. It is a wonderfully refreshing earthy experience that I have enjoyed turning people onto, including my husband. I encourage all those coffee fanatics to give it a try, you may just give up your morning cup of jo for a gourd and bombilla.
Image: El Mate by edithbruck under Creative Commons License