For this week’s Brand in Focus I take a look at Unión Suave, one of Argentina’s most popular yerba mate brands. Unión was launched in 1982 and has become the market leader in the suave (smooth) mate category, of which it was the first. Suaves usually have a higher palos (stem) content, and are a great choice for those who find more traditional yerbas a little too full bodied. Despite the smooth tag, Unión products have a well-rounded flavour profile, and will still be of interest to seasoned drinkers of Argentine mate.
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. 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.
If somebody new to mate was to ask me which yerba from Argentina they should try first, I would not hesitate to recommend Unión Suave. Despite being relatively light, this yerba still has a decent well-rounded flavour that holds-up over the course of multiple rinses in a gourd. The cut of the leaf is quite coarse with plenty of large palos, both of which contribute to the smooth profile of this yerba.
On the palette this mate has discernible notes of soft wood and citrus, something which probably lead Las Marias to introduce the Hierbas Litoral blend.
Although this is a blended mate, I find the flavouring in the Litoral to be quite gentle. To me the lemon orange and mint actually compliment the natural flavour of the herb rather than overshadow it. I have always been more of a pure yerba kind of guy, but this one is really delicious! I would imagine that this would work well as tererê, and look forward to the weather getting a bit warmer so I can properly test it out cold.
Similar treatment would also suit Unión‘s other blend, the Hierbas Serranas. In this one I find the flavours to be more pronounced than in the citrus, but still well balanced with the smooth tones of the Unión Suave. Perhaps consider the Serranas if you are looking for something to help your food go down easier, as peppermint is known to have digestive aiding qualities.
So if you’re new to yerba mate or are just interested in trying something different and perhaps lighter, then definitely consider giving Unión Suave a try. If you happen to be on the look out for your first mate gourd and bombilla, the original blend is also available as part of one of our excellent value starter kits.