Smoked vs Unsmoked?

I am always getting the question, “what brands are smoked and unsmoked?” This is because a very large U.S. brand of yerba mate has used their “unsmoked” yerba mate as part of their marketing platform. Here is a quote from their web site.

“Recently, there has been some suggestion that drinking large quantities of smoke-dried yerba mate might not be good for you. There are byproducts in all smoked foods called PAHs. These byproducts have been linked with many health issues, including some forms of cancer. So, if you are drinking yerba mate for its promise of healthy energy, you probably want to find a source that dries their yerba mate with 100% warm clean air instead of smoke.”

The recent “suggestion” comes from them, they have been at this many years. Notice how they carefully make the link. The fact is there is no research that shows that unsmoked yerba mate is safer than smoked yerba mate, if any such evidence did exist they would have referred to it.

There are over 200 brands in Argentina, Uruguay, or Paraguay and none that claim to be “unsmoked” in their print or packaging. They simply do not care. In my travels in those counties I ask often about the cancer issue and the common response is “it that were true we would be dropping like flies”. They always find the question humorous, I have found no one who knows anybody that has had cancer as a result of drinking yerba mate.

It seems from the research the biggest factors are drinking too much, too hot, smoking, and alcohol. For more information click here.

All the manufactures I have visited will run the harvested yerba mate through a very hot tumbler with open flames from wood in order to flash dry it and kill any microorganisms. (Natural gas is expensive and imparts a funky taste). It then goes to another building for slow drying which can take up to 24 hours. During the slow drying process some companies will allow some smoke to pass through the leaves. We have put in our product descriptions which ones we know of that have and have not been smoked.

My advice is to find a yerba mate brand that you enjoy, don’t drink too much and don’t drink it too hot.

On another issue, if “fair trade” influences your buying decisions you might want to do some research on exactly what that means, and exactly how it benefits the growers. There are only two brands of yerba mate in the world that use "fair trade" on their packaging and they are both in the US.


Rick Wiman (President)

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