Tea Talk

TEA TALK: Yerba Mate (What is that?)

By, Mary Murkin

What has the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate all in one beverage?  That would be Yerba mate (pronounced Yer-bah mah-tay)—naturally caffeinated and nourishing leaves of the South American rainforest holly tree.  Tribes from South America have sipped Yerba mate for centuries.  These rainforest people experienced effects of nourishment, focus, and invigoration from drinking this infused drink.

Yerba mate is not technically tea, but rather it is an infusion.  The drink “tea” is made from the leaves of an Asian shrub called Camellia senensis;  whereas, the Yerba mate drink is made from the leaves of a South American shrub called Ilex paraguariensis.  Since they are both prepared as an infusion of the leaves into the water, Yerba mate is typically found in fine tea stores.  You can drink the Yerba mate infusion as a warm drink or a cold one.  This is purely a matter of preference.

The nutritional value of the leaves of this rainforest mate tree is exceptional.  The leaves contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and abundant antioxidants.  It was back in 1964 that The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society concluded “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value” and that it contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.”  Pretty impressive, indeed!

The caffeine content in Yerba mate is somewhere between that of green tea and coffee.  However, unlike tea, Yerba mate has a very low tannin content which allows it to be strong like coffee without becoming extremely bitter.  It is also proven that Yerba mate is not oily and acid forming, unlike coffee, therefore it is less likely to cause jitters and stomach acid.

High-quality Yerba mate is shade-grown, which allows it to deliver more flavor and medicinal and nutritional properties.  Enjoying Yerba mate is generally an acquired taste.  The drink will have a somewhat earthy, grassy flavor.  You make it with warm water, and not boiling water, as that would release bitter tannins into the water.  To ease you into acquiring the taste for Yerba mate, you may add a little sugar, honey, milk, lemon, herbs, syrups, liqueurs, or fruit juices.  Yerba mate is one of the healthiest drinks you’ll ever raise to your lips.  Bottom’s up!

Mary Murkin is the owner of Carriage House Tea which is sold at Brightside Gallery, 170 Worth Street, Asheboro, NC.  Contact her at:

Brightside Gallery170 Worth StreetAsheboro, NC 27203

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