What is Yerba Mate?
As more and more health benefits of Yerba Mate continue to be discovered and confirmed, this natural drink from South America is booming all around the world.
Yerba Mate is a herbal infusion made from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis, a tree that grows exclusively in certain subtropical regions of South America. Yerba Mate has existed for many centuries and consolidated its position as the number one drink for millions of people in Argentina (world’s leading producer), as well as in Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.
But for many people, especially outside South America, it may be the first time they hear the term “yerba mate”. It’s time to discover a natural drink like no other!
A very special drink
The yerba mate tea is prepared with the leaves of the yerba mate tree from South America, which only grows in three countries: Argentina ( the world’s main producer), Brazil and Paraguay. After being dried, ground and packed; the yerba mate leaves can be easily purchased in any supermarket within the producing countries; and today, they can also be purchased online in several regions of the world.
But this drink is prepared in a very particular way. Traditionally, you need a special cup designed for this purpose (also called “mate”). The mate cup comes in several shapes and materials such as glass, metal and wood, among others. Although there are several ways to make and drink yerba mate, the most common one is hot yerba mate tea.
To prepare a traditional mate tea, the ground leaves are brewed with hot water inside the mate cup. The infusion is drunk through a special straw called “bombilla” (also designed for this purpose) adding more and more water as your drink. More information here on how to brew a good mate tea.
Yerba mate has a herbal and slightly bitter taste. Some people prefer to add sugar or honey. You can drink it hot in the winter or cold in the summer; and you can even choose a flavored yerba mate according to your personality and taste.
A bit of history: where does mate come from?
Although the discovery of yerba mate can be attributed to the Kaingang ethnic group about 3000 years B.C.; history recognizes the Guarani people (from the Paraná jungle) as the masters of yerba mate and the creators of its special brewing technique. They used yerba mate for nutritional and therapeutic purposes, but also as a spiritual symbol. With the arrival of the Spaniards, the popularity of yerba mate extended to the whole colony. In this period, the Jesuit missionaries were the pioneers in cultivating and spreading the consumption of yerba mate. Read more about the history of yerba mate.
Until today, all attempts to grow the yerba mate tree outside South America have been unsuccessful. Yerba mate remains a treasure exclusive to these regions.
Why should you drink yerba mate?
One of the main reasons people drink yerba mate is its stimulating and energizing effect, the same reason people like to drink coffee or tea in the morning (although yerba mate has undeniable advantages over these drinks). The caffeine contained in yerba mate stimulates the central nervous system and increases focus and energy levels; ideal for undertaking any activity in your daily routine.
Beyond that, yerba mate is considered one of the best and healthiest drinks in the world. Its antioxidant power protects cells and improves all body functions. It is a source of vitamins, essential minerals and other nutrients that prevent cell damage. Yerba mate is also known for having great properties, improve the immune system and prevent cardiovascular diseases. And if that were not enough, yerba mate enhances cognitive functions; is an effective neuroprotector, and has detoxifying, diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects.
In general, yerba mate fosters a state of well-being that improves your quality of life. Here you can learn in detail about the countless health benefits of yerba mate.
Yerba Mate is culture
In addition to its energizing effect and its health benefits, drinking yerba mate is a social custom and part of the lifestyle in the producing countries. In Argentina, for example, drinking yerba mate is a daily ritual for its citizens (yerba mate is present in 90% of Argentine homes). In this country, people generally drink yerba mate in groups, sharing the same mate regardless of the number of drinkers, with one person in charge of pouring water and passing the cup to each of the others. Read more here about yerba mate in Argentina. However, in times of quarantaine and social distance, it is recommended that each person uses their own mate cup and bombilla, although hot water can still be shared! Read more about drinking yerba mate in quarantine.
In Uruguay, yerba mate is also considered the national drink. Uruguayans drink hot, bitter yerba mate tea at any time and in any place, and mostly individually with every person having their own yerba mate kit. The mate cups in Uruguay are bigger and yerba without stems is preferred.
In Paraguay, yerba is yellow and the mate infusion is mainly prepared as “tereré“, a Guarani drink made with yerba mate, cold water and other refreshing herbs. In the South of Brazil, they have their own type of yerba mate (greener and always bitter) and they call it chimarrão. There, drinking yerba mate is also considered a form of social interaction as in Argentina, although many also drink it individually throughout the day.
So what began as a native ritual remains valid and unalterable. Today, yerba mate is the drink of choice for millions of people; And that number continues to grow thanks to the numerous scientific studies supporting its many virtues.