Yerba mate is widely known as the source of
the beverage called mate. It is traditionally consumed in central and southern
regions of South America, particularly Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile. Yerba
mate was initially utilized and cultivated by the Guaraní people and in
southern Brazil, prior to European colonization. Yerba mate can also be found
in various energy drinks on the market today.
The infusion, called mate in
Spanish-speaking countries is prepared by filling a container, typically a
gourd, up to three-quarters full with dry leaves (and twigs) of the mate plant,
and filling it up with water at a temperature of 70-80 °°C (158-176 °F), hot but
not boiling. Sugar may or may not be added; and the mate may be prepared with
cold water (tereré).
The flavor of brewed mate resembles an
infusion of vegetables, herbs, grass and is reminiscent of some varieties of
green tea. Some consider the flavor to be very agreeable, but it is generally
bitter if steeped in boiling water. Flavored mate is also sold, in which the
mate leaves are blended with other herbs (such as peppermint) or citrus rind.
Yerba mate is very versatile and can be
prepared a variety of ways, from a tea infuser or French press to a coffee
machine, even an espresso maker. It can
be consumed hot, or cold, and served with milk and honey or iced with lemon and
mint, the combinations are endless.
In Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, a
toasted version of mate, known as mate cocido (Paraguay), chá mate (Brazil) or
just mate, is sold in teabags and in a loose leaf form. It is often served
sweetened in specialized shops or on the street, either hot or iced, pure or
with fruit juice or milk. In Argentina and
southern Brazil, this is commonly consumed for breakfast or in a café for
afternoon tea, often with a selection of sweet pastries (facturas).
The leaves of the rainforest mate tree
naturally contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, abundant
antioxidants. In fact, The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society
in 1964 concluded "it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the
world equal to mate in nutritional value" and that yerba mate contains
"practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life."
Unlike coffee, yerba mate is not oily and
acid forming, so it is less likely to cause stomach acid and jitters.