For this week’s Brand in Focus I take a look at Taragui, one of Argentina’s most popular yerba mate brands. Founded in 1924, Taragui have consistently been at the forefront of mate innovation, with the introduction of mate teabags in 1966, and the first air-tight yerba packets in 1994 to name just a couple of examples.
The brand currently operates under the Las Marias umbrella, the largest producer of yerba mate in Argentina. Despite their size, Las Marias have shown a resounding commitment to sustainable and responsible practices in recent times. For instance, although Las Marias purchase around 50% of their yerba from independent farmers, all suppliers are fully audited to ensure that child labour is not being used. This has recently become a salient issue in the yerba mate world, with an online petition to end the practice attracting over 66,000 signatures.
Las Marias are, however, helping to foster the spirit of mate in the younger generation, and for those who have completed their education that are interested in pursuing a career in the mate industry, Las Marias have an on-site training college at their premises in Corrientes.
The company also practices HACCCP as a way of ensuring consistent quality from producer to consumer, another current talking point in the world of mate. Under the Taragui brand, Las Marias have also launched the first Rainforest Alliance Certified (RAC) yerba – Vitality – products which I will return to later on.
Taragui Around the World:
As well as being one of Argentina’s most iconic brands, Taragui has a strong international presence, and the company have been exporting their mate around the world since 1959. The biggest market for yerba mate outside of South America is in the Middle-East, specifically in Syria and Lebanon, where the practice was adopted after a wave of Arab immigration to Argentina during the twentieth century. Until recently over 70% of Argentina’s exported yerba made its way to Syria, but due to the recent conflict this market has shrunk considerably. I recently spoke to Fadel Al-Hayek from Damascus; he told me that since the war began in 2011 it has been much harder to acquire many brands of yerba that were previously available, with the price increasing around 12 times! Taragui, however, has remained consistently available, and this is perhaps a testament to how committed to the Syrian market the company are. Fadel told me he is incredibly grateful to Taragui, as mate is one of the only things providing him with enjoyment in these difficult times.
Taragui manufacture a range of yerba mate products, all aimed at different tastes and preferences. Below is an overview of some of their core “pure yerba” products, although the brand also sell varieties flavoured with various fruits. The ready-to-go Mate Listo has also featured on this blog in recent weeks.
Roja – Taragui’s most traditional Argentine yerba: the Roja mate with stems has a nice coarse leaf cut, and is accompanied by a decent amount of polvo for those like myself who enjoy them a little bit dusty! The flavour is bold, with good strong smokey notes, and robust enough to give a decent cycle length for those drinking traditionally in a gourd.
Azul/Vitality – The Azul sin palos (without stems) – Taragui’s RAC yerba – has a much cleaner cut, with a smaller more uniform leaf size, and almost zero dust. The distinct savoury notes of Taragui are even more detectable in this mate, and it reminds me somewhat of the Kraus Pure Leaf variety, except more smokey. The result is a very clean tasting drink with very little discernible bitterness, perfect for the beginner palate. I once served this mate at a trade show as samples for tasting, and found it brews splendidly in a cafetiere.
If low dust content is your thing, another Taragui variety Liviana is also available.
The Vitality version of this yerba is certified by the Rainforest Alliance, meaning all social and environmental factors for fair and sustainable production are adhered to. The packet itself is also more advanced than the older style Azul, providing better protection from moisture
Tea Bags – Taragui’s mate cocido (tea bags) are some of the best I have tasted. Providing a good strong brew, these are ideal for the traditional mate drinker who is in a rush, or perhaps just not in the mood for preparing an entire gourd. The bags come individually foil wrapped to preserve freshness, so there is no great rush to drink them once the box has been opened.
Energia – The Energia is a more recent addition to the Taragui lineup. Harvested at the point when the yerba leaves are highest in natural caffeine, it provides a more noticeable lift when needed! Although the caffeine content is used as this yerbas main selling point, it is actually my favourite tasting Taragui product, with wonderful notes of malty-chocolate, raisins, and raspberries
Are you a fan of Taragui? Want to know more? Get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org