For this week’s Brand in Focus I take a look at La Merced, a high quality yerba mate brand from Argentina. La Merced is the premium brand offered by Las Marias, 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. Their own website speaks of the company’s commitment to environmental protection, with a preference for using natural pest-control methods instead of insecticides. Farming techniques using minimal tillage are employed to protect the soil from erosion and to preserve its nutritional content. Las Marias also regularly replenishes forests near to their plantations, planting native trees of ‘high ecological value.’
Las Marias purchase around 50% of their yerba from independent farmers, with all suppliers being 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 helping to foster the spirit of mate in new generations, 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 aim of the La Merced brand is to showcase some unique speciality yerbas grown in different micro-climates within northern-Argentina. When I was first recommend La Merced by Emma a few years ago, she described it to me as “top shelf” yerba mate, and upon drinking it did not fail to impress!
At UruShop we are currently carrying four different products by La Merced (see below), available to buy separately and as part of our starter kits.
The De Campo, or “field mate”, harvested by hand, is grown on the prairies of northeastern Corrientes. Drinking this yerba is a wonderfully soft and fragrant experience, with the brewed herb displaying clear floral notes, accompanied by hints of citrus and vanilla. The smokiness is delicate and refined, the yerba leaving a lingering woodiness on the palette. As such I would highly recommend drinking it in a palo santo wooden mate.
The De Monte, or “mountain”, is grown in the lush natural forests of the Corrientes hillsides. This is one of the most unique tasting yerbas I’ve ever had, with a flavour profile overwhelmingly dominated by creamy/buttery tones. These settle down nicely on the palate into an almost milk chocolatey finish. Totally exquisite!
The limited Campo & Monte blend combines the best elements of the aforementioned two yerbas. A lot of care has clearly been taken in getting the balance right here, and whereas I detect the floralness of the Campo first, the flavour rounds off with a nice creamy/chocolately finish.
The Barbaqua is processed using traditional smoking techniques and is certainly one for those who like strongly-flavoured yerba mate. Personally I have to be in the right mood to fully appreciate this one, as it really is very smoky! However, beneath its smoky facade it is still possible to detect that same level of depth and quality which distinguishes the La Merced range.My top tip with this yerba is to play around with the water temperature a bit, as I find slightly cooler water allows the yerba’s chocolatey tones to really shine through.