To some of us, when people talk about herbal medicines and teas, yerba mate might sound completely unfamiliar to us. But to the indigenous tribes of South America where yerba mate was discovered around the 17th century; it is well known for its healing benefits.
That’s why they called it the “drink of the gods”
Here’s what’s covered in this article:
- Why Is Yerba Mate So Popular?
- Yerba Mate Research
- Yerba Mate Legends
- The Art Of Drinking Yerba Mate
- Reasons To Drink Yerba Mate
- The Health Benefits Of Yerba Mate
- Preparing Yerba Mate
- Types Of Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate vs Green Tea
Most people know about green tea and how it can benefit your health. Not many people realize that there is another tea that matches green tea, and might even be better for your health, and that is yerba mate tea.
There are not many plants across the world that are caffeine producers, but yerba mate is one such one; others are cacao, coffee, guarana, cola (or kola). One prepares yerba mate tea in much the same way as making a cup of tea, but there aren’t really tea leaves. This tea beverage is known as mate in Portuguese and Spanish and in English, people call it yerba mate.
The Yerba Mate plant is a South American plant and the national drink of the Argentina people as well as Uruguay, Southern Brazil, and Paraguay – in these countries people drink yerba mate to the ratio of 6:1 over coffee.
Why is Yerba Mate so popular there?
There are excellent reasons why yerba mate has ended up the national drink of some countries in South America; who doesn’t want heaps of energy? Who doesn’t want to be mentally alert and abound in good health with cancer and inflammatory diseases among others, known to benefit from yerba mate? But these are still being researched.
A study done recently by the University of Illinois found that some properties found in yerba mate could have inhibiting effects on colon cancer cells causing them to destruct.
The Pasteur Institute discovered that this amazing plant contains practically every vitamin needed by the body to sustain people’s lives. It’s no wonder, seeing as it contains antioxidants, heaps of minerals and vitamins. It has coffee-strength, tea-health benefits, and chocolate-euphoria – all in this one beverage.
And for centuries, the Aché Guayaki tribe have been drinking their concoction from this amazing tree, the Holly tree, botanically known as Ilex paraguariensis. There are a couple of stimulants found in this plant too, namely theobromine and theophylline that you will also find in coffee, tea, and chocolate. You can prepare it in a couple of ways too.
Tea infusers, French presses or coffee machines have been noted to be used when preparing this tea and you can drink it served hot or cold, with milk or with honey. It thrives in the shade and produces many more medicinal benefits than the sun-farmed commercial varieties do. This tree’s natural home is the rainforest where it thrives in the right humidity and up to around 1500 of rainfall every year.
The drinking song and talk
The Argentina people drink their yerba mate using a bombilla and gourd; they love their beef, their tangos, and their wine, but yerba mate is their adored beverage. Drinking mate is definitely for drinking among friends and you consume it with others, bringing you all closer. The mate gourd is filled with water and the person who refills it again is called an ‘el cebador’.
You can even buy special thermoses in Argentina especially for drinking mate. When you are sharing mate with friends, there are some customs that need to be remembered. The cebador will fill the gourd with the yerba mate and include water along with the bombilla. The friends will drink all the liquid from the gourd which gets passed around the friends. Every person must point the bombilla at the person who next receives the gourd.
This sacred beverage will yield the best flavors in the shaded areas as direct sunlight on the leaves can cause the leaves to burn and also turn the flavor to be more biter. Commercialized farmers’ plant their yerba mate trees in the sun because the plants grow faster – you need to know where your yerba mate plants and teas come from because the sun-produced yerba mate trees lose some of their traditional nutritional value and goodness when produced commercially in the sun.
Plants planted in the sun also have different shapes and sizes compared to their natural habitat of shaded vegetation. The mono-cultivation method, which also wears out the soil is also another reason you should be sure of where your yerba mate comes from.
What research reveals
A study was conducted in 1995 by the Biochemical and Molecular Biology International group where researchers discovered that yerba mate water extracts had much larger concentrates of antioxidants in them than Vitamin C had. Later, researchers discovered that consuming yerba mate, after investigating 7 other plant species of South America as well, you consume higher contents of caffeoyl and flavonoids in them than the other plants.
It’s a legendary tea
There are heaps of legends about yerba mate. The Argentine cowboys, known as Gauchos call it their “liquid vegetable”. The Guarani people; Brazilian-Portuguese people, started drinking yerba mate in the north-east of Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil, and Paraguay. These people who drink it have their own legends too. They proclaim that the Moon and Cloud goddesses came to Earth for a visit and found a Jaguar there who wanted to attack them.
Fortunately, an old man saved them and to thank him, the goddesses gave the man a type of plant, the yerba mate plant – he was told to “drink the drink of friendship” from them. Preparing the yerba mate in a gourd is actually an art.
The Yerba Mate Gourd Ceremony
The art of drinking yerba mate
1. Fill the gourd with the daily amount of yerba mate.
2. Shake the gourd gently to see that the yerba mate falls to one side with the other side clear.
3. Then add the filtered part of the bombilla to the bottom of the gourd.
4. Gently add some cold water to the clear or empty side of the gourd so that the yerba mate gets moistened slowing, protecting the flavors and the healthy properties.
5. Keep the gourd tilted until the yerba mate completely absorbs all the water.
6. Then you add hot water, which should not be hotter than 150 degrees Fahrenheit, enough so that just the top of the yerba mate is not covered with water.
7. Its then time to sip from the bombilla straw until all that liquid is gone, then you add more water.
Naturally, the first few drinks will be stronger. The flavor will weaken or soften as more water gets added for each and every drink. Each friend will drink, one at a time and they do not move the bombilla because they don’t want to disturb the yerba mate.
You can refill a gourd with yerba mate around fifteen to twenty times.
Seeing as yerba means herb and mate (or mati) is the name for the gourd, it makes sense that drinking yerba mate from a gourd is known as an “herb cup”. People say drinking from the gourd is a happy way of receiving the health-giving properties of yerba mate.
It is drunk as a symbol of hospitality, and friends pass it peacefully from one person to the next talking and sharing stories and communing with each other – it lifts the spirits. It might be just a simple daily ritual and yet it is like a ceremony. It’s great times to be leisurely and in fellowship with friends and family.
The Health Benefits Of Yerba Mate Video
Reasons for Drinking Yerba Mate
Yerba mate helps to break down barriers. As you drink from the gourd and share with strangers, you discover how exciting and meaningful it is to connect, away from television screens and digital devices which is not high on their priority lists. It’s like sharing a meal with a stranger and learning all about them. The server prepares the gourd and serves it to someone else, you forget about “me” and concentrate on “we”.
The truth of the matter is that yerba mate ranks as one of the healthiest nutritional drinks around the world.
We, the human species, are trying to live longer each day, and yet in saying that, we have also become people who eat plenty of junk foods, especially in the more developed nations, where you will find sugary foods, juices, cereals – yes, delicious, but not good for one’s health, consumed.
On the other hand, yerba mate contains all the antioxidants, vitamins, natural stimulants, and vitamins to make you feel naturally happy, lowering your cholesterol, increasing your circulation by opening up the blood vessels, helping you to focus better and heaps of other wonderful benefits.
Let’s look at the healthful benefits
Increases mental alertness and focus: Compared to coffee, Yerba Mate is known for making you feel naturally awake and alert, able to focus better. The effects of coffee usually kick in straight after drinking, but with yerba mate, the effects come in more gently and subtly and can last for much longer than coffee as well. It’s just a natural energy booster. Improves digestion and helps you lose weight.
Encourages faster digestion, so if you have any damaged gastrointestinal tissues, yerba mate can help. Apart from that, it will decrease your appetite too if you drink it in the morning before your breakfast.
Good for depression, fatigue and pain, and many people claim that even if you are under stress at any given time, drinking yerba mate brings you into a relaxed state of mind. Your focus is also increased, enabling you to face stressful situations better.
Yerba Mate Caffeine
Certainly provides an energy boost: Millions of people drink coffee in order to kick-start their sluggish bodies for the day – caffeine is known across the world to provide energy. Yerba mate does that too, but more calmly than coffee which many people claim, gives them the “jitters” after drinking it.
The energy effects of caffeine in coffee usually only last around 30 minutes to an hour or so, that is why people drink so much of it in order to get their next energy “fix”. Yerba mate provides benefits that are long-lasting and plenty of natural calming energy.
Used for traditional medicinal uses: Naturopath and herbalist, Dr. Leslie Taylor has spent a big part of her life discovering all about the medicinal properties of all the plants of the Amazon rainforest and what they have to offer. She discovered that yerba mate offers:
It’s a stimulant: The body is provided with stimulants from yerba mate equal to 100-200 mg of caffeine; provided by the theobromine, theophylline, and xanthine which are found in the leaves.
It helps with sinusitis and allergies, as it boosts the immune system with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties – because of plenty of saponins in it. Saponins are phytochemicals; plant-based compounds which balance the overactive immune responses in the body which causes allergies, IBS (inflammatory bowel disease), rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and others.
Without exercising, yerba mate can help develop strong bones: This is because it increases bone density, even in people who are not exercising. It’s quite a surprising discovery because it is known that caffeine is linked to loss of bone minerals. It has been discovered that post-menopausal osteoporosis in women who drink yerba mate improved by 10% of their bone density in the spine than women who didn’t drink yerba mate -neither groups of women did any exercises.
Healthy heart: This wonderful herb is noted to help with heart conditions such as heart failure, low blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. Because it is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, yerba mate protects the heart and also the cardiovascular system. Yerba mate also contains theobromine, responsible for widening the blood vessels, acting as a diuretic and also treating high blood pressure.
Yerba mate has been noted to kill off cancer cells: Although a controversial topic at the moment, yerba mate does contain a few anti-cancer properties like ursolic acid, saponins, chlorogenic acid, rutin tannin, and chlorophyll. Studies show that when yerba mate gets added to cancer cells of the human colon, they are destroyed.
However, there is still some concern that yerba mate might actually cause some cancers. Other believe this applies more to areas like the lungs the esophagus, mouth, larynx, and pharynx. There is evidence showing though, that it is not yerba mate that is causing cancer but the fact that it is drunken whilst very hot; scalding in fact; and that exposure to such hot liquids on a more frequent basis is known to cause some types of cancers.
Other theories exist as well and one is that the mate drinkers in some parts of South America smoke tobacco and drink alcohol often in excess which can also be contributing factors to cancer.
How do you prepare your mate tea?
The simplest way is simply to brew it like tea. If you own a French Press, you make it just like you do coffee. If you want to make your yerba mate, trying to be as original and authentic as is the way in Argentina, you can upgrade to buying yourself a gourd (or a calabash) with the straw (bombilla). The Yerba Mate most popular drunk in the USA is called Guayaki.
Don’t drink yerba mate if you are taking medications though, because it is not wise to mix the two with these type diseases:
or with any drugs that stimulate the nervous system
Are there different types of yerba mate?
Not all yerba mate teas and brands are going to be equal. There are simply heaps and heap of producers to be found across South America. The teas from Brazil and Argentina will be repackaged and rebranded because there are so many producers, so there will be many different teas. It’s really difficult figuring out which are the top quality ones. Here are some of the best ones for you to make up your mind:
GUAYAKI: This brand is a very popular brand to be found in North America. It has low acidity and has a milder flavor than some of the traditional teas. It is recommended for beginners and moderate drinkers.
CRUZ DE MALTA: This tea is a special among the Argentines because of its bold flavor. It’s got sweet smoky tones to it and even so, still has a bitter taste. This tea comes with cut stems and quite low in powder, making it clean to drink and also enjoyable. This tea ranks as one of the best yerba mate teas to be found on the market – kind of traditional tea.
TARAGUI: A high-quality tea with a strong flavor. It consists of a fine powder, giving it strength and making it potent. Beginners won’t really enjoy this one as they might find the flavor just too bold. It is recommended however for those who want to drink it as the traditionalists do with an extra kick from the Mateine (or caffeine) found in it. It’s the strong one!
MATE LEAO: The Brazilian people love this tea, with its milder flavors over the Argentinian yerba mate. You can find tea bags of yerba mate with added lime, or lemon or orange. If you are looking for traditional authentic blends this is the one for you – beginners will enjoy this brand.
The yerba mate plant was cultivated centuries ago by the Jesuit missionaries. In the wild, it’s quite a large round shaped tree. But when it is cultivated, it doesn’t develop into a tree but looks like a smallish shrub. Naturally, a special tree requires special type soils and special conditions, so it is grown commercially in only certain parts of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.
The young twigs and leaves are dried, then shredded, then left to age for about a year in containers made from cedar before they are put on the market as tea bags or loose leaves, even as bottled drinks. Sometimes you will find roasted yerba mate or smoked yerba mate. These types aren’t recommended though.
When you brew your tea, you will discover the tea will have a green coloring and smelling herbal. Buy only organic yerba mate, avoiding the roasted smoked types because these will have higher levels of PAH or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in them than other brands.
The good quality brands will make use of a flash-heating method which protects the nutritional properties and antioxidants in the tea, finally being dried at low temperatures.
That’s your introduction to this amazing centuries-old drink – yerba mate and as you can see, it’s an overall health tonic, and we can’t but help drink to that!