What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba Mate tea is a natural beverage. Leaves and twigs from the Ilex Paraguariensis plant are harvested to make maté and also Chimarrão and Tereré. The mate leaves are placed in a gourd and steeped in hot water. Traditionally, yerba mate tea is sipped from a natural gourd through a metal straw called the “bombilla”.
Drinking yerba mate is hugely popular in Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, and some other South American countries. Yerba mate contains various vitamins and minerals and other compounds.
Yerba Mate has been used for thousands of years by the Guaraní People for stamina and as a natural, healthy remedy with numerous health benefits. Today people still swear by yerba mate as a source of energy (all yerba mate contains caffeine), as a way of aiding weight loss and for general well-being. Many people opt for yerba mate to replace coffee as they prefer the effect of the caffeine found in maté rather than the caffeine found in coffee.
UruShop is proud to bring you the widest selection of yerba mate, gourds and accessories in the UK. We also stock a growing range of traditional South American food, herbs and spices.
Please feel free to check out our Yerba Mate blog to find out more about how to prepare Yerba Mate and other Yerba Mate instructions and don’t forget to look at the full Yerba Mate range that we have to offer
Yerba Mate: What’s all the fuss about?
You’ve heard people raving about yerba mate. You’ve read online about how yerba mate may help with weight loss and the diet you’ve been meaning to go on. Some people even think yerba mate can help curb disease (please seek medical advice before using yerba mate for any of these medical reasons you may have read about online). What is this herbal tea that offers a dose of vitamins and minerals, an energy kick from caffeine and a wealth of health benefits?
Well much research has been done, although to be able to declare all of these yerba mate health benefits, more research and data collection would need to be carried out. But what we can say is that Ilex Paraguariensis aka yerba mate contains significant quantities of the following compounds*
Vitamin B1, Thiamine: 0.41mg
Vitamin B2, Riboflavin: 0.78mg
Vitamin B5, Pantothenic Acid: 6.5mg
Vitamin C: 6.4mg
All yerba mate contains caffeine, so it’s important to get medical advice if you have been identified as needing to reduce caffeine consumption. It is not recommended to give yerba mate to children due to its caffeine content without first seeking medical advice. Yerba mate caffeine content is quite high, so you should employ the same caution as you would with drinking coffee.
Yerba Mate and Weight Loss
Many people like yerba mate for weight loss because they are convinced that the side effects of drinking yerba mate is a feeling of fullness. This is why many people turn to yerba mate tea as an aid to weight loss to shift that extra fat.
There is some research that yerba mate delays gastric emptying, thus leaving a person full for longer and aiding weight loss, but this all needs to be followed up and more research completed.
Some people feel that because yerba mate contains caffeine, it naturally follows on the side effects of having extra energy.
Many athletes swear by yerba mate as a great pre-workout health drink.
Yerba Mate: Great for the body and great for the soul
Yerba Mate in Argentina and Uruguay
In Argentina and Uruguay, mate consumption is the highest in the world in terms of kilos consumed per capita. It is traditionally enjoyed by filling a mate gourd (or just mate for short), which is the hollowed and dried fruit of the calabash plant.
The yerba is steeped in hot water and the resulting beverage is sipped through a metal straw with a filter at one end. Detailed instructions with photos are provided with each purchase, but you can read how to prepare yerba mate here. Yerba mate is usually served in a group of people.
Yerba mate is divided into mainly two categories. “Con palos” i.e. yerba with stems, which means the blend is a mixture of chopped leaves and twigs. “Sin palos” i.e. yerba without stems is a pure leaf blend – only chopped leaves are in the blend. The presence of stems serves to dilute the resulting tea. If yerba mate contains stems, it will not be as strong as yerba mate without stems.
Some yerbas come flavour infused, and these are often enjoyed sweetened.
Yerba Mate in Paraguay: Tereré
If you ever travel to Paraguay, you will have noticed the large market tables with yerba and herbs for sale in every street corner. These are for making Tereré, Paraguay’s national drink. Tereré is a herbal tea enjoyed iced cold.
Traditionally it is prepared in a “guampa” instead of a mate gourd, which is a mate made from a bull’s horn. The guampa is filled with yerba leaves, ice, fruit and herbs.
Each serving is prepared with ice cold water or juice served from large plastic terere flasks. All Paraguayan yerba mate contains stems, which is a blend more suited to drinking the tea cold rather than hot.
Many herbs are known for their health benefits so drinking them with yerba mate is not only delicious, but beneficial to health.
You can read how to prepare the perfect Tereré here.
Yerba Mate in Brazil: Chimarrão
Chimarrão is the herbal tea of choice in South Brazil. This delicious drink is brewed with hot water and a yerba mate known as Erva Mate, which is yerba blended in a very particular way.
It is dried differently so is bright green in colour, and contains both very fine ground yerba mate leaves together with long stems.
You can get in quite a mess if you don’t follow instructions on how to prepare this awesome drink. But don’t worry it’s not hard at all, when you know how it’s done! You can see how to prepare the perfect Chimarrão here.
And of course, everything is bigger and bolder in Brazil! Chimarrão tea is normally served hot in a giant mate gourd with a long metal straw with a filter called a bomba. There are great, traditional competitions in Brazil of Chimarrão, where the tea is shaped into beautiful formations in the gourd and put on display.
How to Choose your Yerba Mate
It can be a little overwhelming when presented with the huge number of different brands and types of yerba mate (ilex paraguariensis). Will you be choosing a yerba from Uruguay? Argentina? Paraguay? Brazil? Will you be drinking your yerba mate in a traditional way with a natural gourd? Will you try something easier to use, like a ceramic cup for your beverage? Or will you use a coffee filter for your yerba mate infusion? Will you drink your yerba mate with hot water or ice cold?
We recommend trying a smooth yerba mate to start with, something that isn’t too strong, and a yerba with stems. Something like Kraus yerba mate is a great yerba to start with because it is dried without using smoke, and many blends are organic. This means the taste of the beverage isn’t too overpowering.
If you like Kraus, or you already know you like yerba mate and want a stronger, or more bitter yerba we would recommend some of the great staples: Taragui or Playadito. These are two of the most popular yerba mates in Argentina.
Are you looking for a yerba mate with high caffeine content? All yerba contains caffeine, but we recommend Taragui Energy (plain yerba mate harvested early for optimum caffeine content) or CBSe Guarana (flavoured yerba blended with Guarana for added caffeine). Remember to seek medical advice if unsure about caffeine consumption.
Do you want to try ice cold herbal tea Terere? For this fantastic beverage we recommend a flavoured yerba mate such as mint or citrus fruit. Kraus Silvestre with Mint is perfect. The cool mint works amazingly in an iced cold beverage.
Mate, mate, mate – the gourd!
The mate cup is known as simply the “mate” and is traditionally a gourd. A gourd is the hollowed out fruit of the calabash plant, the body of which is sometimes wrapped with decorative leather. It is important to properly cure and care for your gourd, so here is some information on how to cure the mate gourd. Full instructions will be provided on purchase.
The natural mate gourd is quite tricky to care for. It is quite easy to get it wrong and there is an increased risk of mould formation. Our top complaint is customers struggling with their natural gourd. Sometimes people find the natural gourd imparts an acidic, bitter taste on their beverage, and so opt for a different kind of cup for their yerba mate.
But make no mistake, the real traditional way to enjoy yerba mate is to drink it from a natural gourd. So if you want the authentic experience and are open to caring for this tricky piece of kit, its well worth having a try with a natural gourd. It must be cured on arrival, and then kept bone dry between uses. The gourd imparts a bitter taste on the yerba mate tea – you may love it or hate it!
Other yerba mate cups include mates made from ceramic and glass (which are great because they require no curing, and are easy to care for). Mate cups are also made from wood, bamboo and bull’s horn (guampas).
Read more information about mate cups here.
*based on data per 100g yerba mate from main producers of yerba mate, (ilex paraguariensis). Las Marias, Cooperación Liebig and La Cachuera in Argentina, La Selva in Brazil and Lauro Ratz in Paraguay.
** caffeine data based on research by Kraus, an organic producer of yerba mate in Argentina, where 50g yerba mate leaves and twigs are steeped in hot water (200ml)