What is Yerba Mate Tea? Mate tea, or Yerba Mate is a highly caffeinated tea that is best known for its health benefits and unique history. Mate tea contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and is stacked full of antioxidants. Yerba Mate has a rich history; it has been drunk for over 500 years, it has been used to pay colonial taxes, and it’s even been used as a currency!
Mate tea is drunk daily by tens of millions of people. It is most popular in South American where the Mate plant, the rainforest holly tree, is grown.
Where is Mate from?
Yerba Mate is grown in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Nearly all of the global production of Mate comes from the lower half of South America. According to “El Instituto Nacional de la Yerba Mate” or The National Institute of Yerba Mate 95% of the worlds Mate harvest comes from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, the South of Chile, & the south of Bolivia. Strong regional demand makes it so that nearly all of the yearly harvest is consumed locally. The biggest importers of Yerba Mate outside of South America are Syria and Lebanon. Where the tea is prized as a traditionally social drink enjoyed amongst family members.
With the spread of globalization Mate is currently being drunk in nearly every country worldwide. Mate is becoming increasingly popular in several global hot spots outside of South America. Mate’s popularity is growing in Australia, Canada, The United States, and Iraq.
How do you drink Mate Tea?
Here is a list of ways that you can drink the South American tea: Mate loose leaf, mate tea bags, Mate energy drinks, Mate shots or Mate energy shots, or Mate K-Cups. Learn more about the caffeine content of each brewing method.
Traditionally, indigenous tribes in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay made mate gourds and straws from plant and vegetable material. However now in Argentina everyone drinks Yerba Mate using a rounded wooden cup and a metallic straw. The cup, or gourd as it is most commonly called, is first filled with loose leaf mate. Then hot water is poured over the mate and left to steam and brew the mate leaves. A metallic closed end straw with small holes poked into the bottom is used to drink the tea. The straw is used to decrease the amount of leaf particles that you drink.
Mate tea is also frequently drunk in tea bags, especially in Brazil. Many brands make mate tea with added flavors. When mate is drank using a tea bag, you prepare it just like any other tea. Frequently consumers will add a teaspoon of sugar to sweeten the drink.
As Mate grows in popularity across the world there are an increasing number of new beverages being produced. Energy drinks, energy shots, and k-cups with Yerba Mate as the main ingredient have all been released in the last ten years. These new beverages were made to capitalize on Yerba Mate’s growing popularity. Typically they do use Yerba Mate as the main ingredient, but they come with many other added flavors. They come ready to drink, right out of the box, with no preparation needed.
History of Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate has been around for over 500 years, dating back to the indigenous tribes of South America. Mate consumption begun with indigenous tribes before the Spanish conquest. Most historians believe that indigenous tribes had been eating and brewing mate leaves long before the Spanish arrival. Although there are few pre-colonial written histories of Mate use, accounts have recorded that the tribes did have widespread knowledge and ability to both locate the holly trees and harvest their leaves. Traces of Mate were found inside of Incan tombs, which suggest that mate was a sign of high status in these cultures.
During the 17th and 18th centuries Jesuit missionaries controlled the production of Yerba Mate. They refined harvesting techniques and produced Yerba on a larger scale. There was a great deal of animosity between the Jesuits who controlled and monopolized production and the South Americans who worked in the fields. During the 18th and 19th century Yerba mate became a major cap crop of the region. While use was mainly limited to South America, Spain and Portugal, the tea became a cultural tradition that has been passed from generation to generation for hundreds of years.
How is Mate Grown?
Yerba comes from a species of holly tree, which is grown and then harvested years later for its leaves. The holly trees where the mate leaves are grown replenish after they are trimmed. The trees are trimmed on average every 2 years, and frequently the mate yield increases year to year. The trees can yield mate for up to 100 years.
Which is it? Yerba Mate, Erva Mate, Chimarrão, Mate, Matte
Mate originated in South America, where two different languages are spoken. This is one reason why there are so many names for the tea. In Spanish speaking countries it is known as Yerba Mate. Most western countries have adopted this name as well. It is the most common name for the tea. However, in Brazil it is called Erva Mate (herva mate) or chimarrão (shi-ma-raaoo).
To make things simpler many South Americans will simply refer to the beverage simply is as mate, or matte. The thing you need to remember is that it’s all the same; these name changes are important for translations but unimportant for tea drinkers. Mate is mate wherever you are!
Below are the resources I used to write this article.