What is Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is a smooth natural source of energy and nutrition and like green tea it is rich in polyphenols. It is made from the South American holly tree, an evergreen, is biologically classified as Ilex paraguariensis. It grows primarily in parts of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay, is dioecious (having male and female trees), and can grow up to 18 meters tall.
Argentina produces about 300,000 tons per year, Brazil about 230,000 tons and Paraguay about 100,000 tons. It is interesting to note that very little yerba mate is produced in Uruguay but they have the highest percentage of consumers, most of their favorite brands are grown in Brazil. Yerba mate is mostly cultivated and rarely wild harvested. Yerba mate is an herbal tea made from an infusion of the dried leaves of this tree and is the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, more popular than coffee or tea.
There are well over 200 different brands and blends of yerba mate tea, and many different ways to prepare it. Traditionally, yerba mate tea is drunk from a gourd, called a mate, in which it is prepared by steeping the processed dried yerba mate leaves in hot, but not boiling, water. It is then sipped through a metal straw called a bombilla which has holes in it to let the liquid come through, but filters out the leaves. The gourd is traditionally a natural gourd such as calabash.
Today there are a variety of gourds, even metal ones such as stainless steel or silver. Yerba mate has a strong green bitter taste. Some have said it is like a cross between green tea and coffee. It can be sweetened with sugar or honey. With the variety of blends, there is a variation in taste.
The indigenous people of the area in South America in which the Ilex paraguariensis tree grows, used yerba mate tea for centuries, not only as a social beverage, but also as a medicinal one. Scientific research done over only the last two decades is revealing many health benefits that will be discussed elsewhere on this website.