What is Yerba Mate?

Yerba mate is a type of tea generally grown in South America.
Yerba mate is a type of tea generally grown in South America.

What is Yerba Mate?

Billions of people around the world wake up to hot cups of tea or coffee before engaging in the day’s activity. But in some parts of the world, people wake up with a drink that is not familiar to many, called yerba mate. Yerba mate is a traditional brew common in South America that is said to offer the strength of coffee, the health benefit of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate of the six popular beverages used as a stimulant, yerba mate is the most balanced, offering both energy and nutrition.

Making Yerba Mate

Yerba mate is brewed from traditional and caffeinated dried leaves of a popular South American holly tree called as Ilex paraguarriensis. The holly tree is common in northern Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil. The tree starts growing in the form of a shrub and matures into a tree that can grow up to 49 feet tall. A yerba mate drink is prepared by filling a gourd with dry leaves of the mate plant then adding hot but not boiling water. The drink is considered ready for consumption once the leaves mix well with the hot water. Sugar may be added to the drink to improve the taste. Drinking yerba mate is considered a social event. It is often served in a hollow gourd and shared as a sign of friendship and bonding.

Who Drinks the Most Yerba Mate?

Yerba mate is widely popular in Paraguay and Uruguay. In these countries, it is not uncommon to see people walking the streets sipping mate and carrying a thermos in their arms to refresh their drink. There are also hot water stations in Uruguay where one can refill their thermos while on the road.

In Argentina, yerba mate is officially a national drink. About 11 pounds per capita of yerba mate worth 500 million dollars is consumed annually in Argentina. In Brazil, an iced, sweetened version of toasted mate is available in the shops and is sold as an uncarbonated drink. Traditionally, the brewer serves each person using one gourd. Once a person is served, he gives thanks, takes as many sips as he can then return the gourd to the brewer who refills it and give the next person in a clockwise order.

Health Benefits

Yerba mate has been hailed throughout South America as a health drink. Yerba mata has been touted as containing several minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and manganese. Yerba mate also has therapeutic properties. It increases energy levels in the body, energy that can be described as gentle and clean. Compared to other stimulants like tea and coffee, yerba mate provides s balanced energy boost. Yerba mate is also considered an herbal medicine that aids in digestion, nerve toning, treatment of allergies, and also boosts the immune system.

Side Effects

While yerba mate is fit for the body, not everyone enjoys having it. Some people experience symptoms of excess caffeine like insomnia, and anxiety. Yerba mate is not recommended for pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers. Smokers are at high risk for certain cancers if they drink too much yerba mate. In Argentina, bladder cancer is much common among yerba mate drinkers who also smoke.


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