Yerba Mate Facts
In the spirit of knowing your source, we wrote this short post about an increasingly popular coffee and tea alternative known as yerba mate. Coffee and tea have long dominated the market as the consumer choice for a caffeine fix and their supply chains are known to be riddled with unsustainable practice and unfair trade. Yerba mate, popular among the millennial generation, is often fairly traded and the dominant brand of yerba mate (Guayaki) sold in the US is fair trade certified.
Guayiki even includes this message on their packaging of yerba mate:
“Guayaki’s mission is to steward and restore 200,000 acres of South American Atlantic Ranforest and create over 1,000 living wage jobs by 2020 by leveraging our Market Driven Restoration Model”
With an increased number of conscious and informed consumers, it is no surprise that fair trade yerba mate is quickly rising in popularity. Although it may not have the same kick as coffee, yerba mate might be a worthwhile substitute.
Whether you’re an avid yerba mate drinker, or are yet to try it, here are some interesting yerba mate facts you might not know:
- Yerba mate is a plant of the holly family that is grown and processed mostly in northern Argentina, Paraguay, and southern Brazil and cultivators are known as yerbateros.
- Passing the mate – “pasando el mate”: In the countryside of Uruguay it is tradition for guachos (Spanish for cowboy) to drink mate before the sun rises and they start their day of work out on the ranch. The loose leaf of mate is placed into a gourd and hot water is added. The guachos sit in a circle around a fire, sharing the mate – each taking a few sips and passing the mate (pasando el mate). This is where incredible stories are told. Take a sip, tell a story, and pass the mate.
- The traditional method of drinking yerba mate consists of a small cup, usually fashioned out of a gourd, and a metal bombilla, which is similar to a straw but has a straining end to it to prevent pieces of mate from being consumed (see picture)
- The traditional method of preparing yerba mate is to first place the bomilla inside the gourd, then add the mate, and finally hot (but not quite boiling) water.
- It is illegal to drink from a bomilla in Uruguay while driving because of the number of deaths incurred from bombillas being projected into the users head was substantial. In the city, people drink mate on the bus and around town from a thermos.
- Mateine – the component of yerba mate that provides its stimulating effect is called mateine, which some claim is a different form of caffeine, but is actually another name for caffeine.
- Connoisseurs of yerba mate will notice a difference between mate from Paraguay and Argentina. The Paraguayans strip the mate leaves from the branch before mashing the plant into the tea that is bought and sold, while most other methods include the stems in this process, giving the final product a more course texture.
- In Uruguay, yerba mate is such a cultural icon that it is said “you can’t be elected to office unless you have been seen drinking yerba mate”
- Yerba mate has been traditionally used as an appetite surpressant and weight loss tool.
- The Guaranis – are an indigenous tribe that is known for drinking yerba mate before European settlers discovered it and introduced it to the world.