How Yerba Mate is Processed
So what is the story of the production of yerba mate? See this lovely set of illustrations to follow the yerba mate story from the farm in to the colourful packet in your cupboard…
Firstly the yerba is grown, and for the majority of the big brands, the only way to do this is on large farms. Some of the very artesanal, expensive yerbas are wild harvested so the plants are growing wild in the forest. Yerba mate is almost exclusively grown in the region of South America where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina share a joint border. The mineral conditions of the earth, and the climate in this region is perfect and yerba mate thrives here.
The harvest of yerba is usually done manually. Groups of people are employed by the farms and they collect the leaves in huge nylon tarps which wrap around to form huge bags. During the harvest process, the leaves are carefully selected for quality
3 Transportation of the yerba leaves
The large bags from the harvest are loaded onto lorries for transport to the processing facilities
4 Leaves are ventilated
The trucks are unloaded using farm machinery and this process aerates the yerba mate leaves.
5 Yerba Mate leaves are dried – first stage
Subjected to temperatures of up to 800C, any enzymatic processes are halted within the leaves. Up to 80% of moisture is lost
6 Yerba Mate leaves are dried – second stage
Now passed through a system of hot pipes or smoke, the yerba mate leaves experience a loss of up to 70% of the remaining moisture. These processed leaves are now referred to as “canchado”
7 Canchado is bagged and aged
The canchado are now bagged into large sacks and stored. Like fine wine, and meat, yerba gets better with age. Yerba should be stored for a minimum of 2 years before processing, ideally as long as the company can afford. Expensive brands can afford to age the yerba for longer, creating an even richer, delicious blend.
8 Lab analysis of the canchado
Through regular checks in a lab, the exact point of maturity of the yerba leaves is identified. This is usually at least 2 years.
9 Canchado is ground to specification and packaged for sale
The canchado is ground to specification – finely ground for teabags, coarsley ground for loose leaf blends, stems may be removed or included. It is then packaged, which may occur automatically using machinery, or may be done by hand if produced by a small company