Although yerba mate is high in caffeine, it typically doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste of many coffees.
Yerba mate is a South American shrub that is cultivated so that its tender shoots and leaves can be harvested. The dried buds and leaves are used to create a drink called mate, which is one of the most popular drinks in South America. Mate also appears in a roasted form for the preparation of boiling water, in which case it is called mate tea. Mate consumption has also spread to other parts of the world, with consumers taking it in place of coffee as a refreshing and energizing drink.
The high levels of caffeine and other stimulants in yerba mate can cause stomach upset in some people.
The name “erva mate” is a combination of Spanish and Quechua. In Spanish, hierba means herb, while in Quechua, mate means “cup”. Therefore, the plant is literally the “herb in the cup”, no doubt a reference to its popularity as a base for a drink. In regions with a large Portuguese population, it can be called yerba mate or yerba mate.
Native Americans have been working with yerba mate for centuries. The cultivation and use of the Ilex paraguariensis plant was also spread by European settlers in South America and, in several countries, mate is like a national drink. It appears in the form of ice in supermarkets and many transit stations offer hot water so that travelers can prepare their yerba mate leaves. Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, in particular, have large mate cultures. Some countries in the Middle East, such as Syria, also drink a lot of mate, due to the South American influence. Like coffee, yerba mate contains a lot of caffeine, but it doesn’t have the bitterness of coffee.
Traditionally, yerba mate is packaged in a gourd, also known as mate. To prepare the mate, hot water is poured over the leaves and stems, and the consumer places a bombilla, or tea straw. The tea straw is equipped with a filter that filters out plant material while the consumer drinks. When the water runs out, more is poured onto the leaves, which can be reused over and over again throughout the day. As a sign of companionship in some countries, people can drink the same mate together. It’s also not uncommon to see people carrying thermoses of hot water and packed yerba mate gourds throughout the day.
When mate leaves are roasted, they take on a distinct, slightly spicy flavor. Mate can also be mixed with teas, particularly green tea, or ingredients such as dried fruit. These flavored mate blends are very popular outside of Latin America. In Latin America, individual consumers can add herbs to yerba mate to create a specific herbal infusion recommended for health.