Yerba mate tea is a popular beverage in some parts of South America that is quickly making inroads in the United States. It's often compared to green tea, but has a stronger herbal flavor and is infused with antioxidants and vitamins. Mate drinkers praise it for providing a smooth caffeine boost without coffee's negative effects. Mate isn't typically associated with giving anyone "the jitters" or making it hard for them to fall asleep.
Where does yerba mate come from?
Indigenous South American populations have been fond of yerba mate for centuries, calling it the "drink of the gods." Mate is cultivated from the leaves of South American rainforest trees that are known for being naturally caffeinated. These trees are most often found in Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil.
It's not at all unusual to see yerba mate being enjoyed on the streets of Buenos Aires or the beaches in Rio de Janeiro, where it's already gained popularity. In addition to the straight leaf mixture, some like to add other herbs to give themselves a greater nutritional boost, or even sugar and honey to sweeten the brew.
While its social use is well known, mate has also been catching on for use by athletes. Though the studies are still relatively new, there are important indications that mate accelerates fat metabolism during exercise, making it easier to burn fat, and delays the onset of fatigue.
How is yerba mate prepared?
To prepare mate, the tree leaves are ground into a powdered mixture and carefully arranged within a small cup. Traditionally, a calabash gourd is used, but any similarly sized container will do the trick. Hot water is poured over the mixture, which is then consumed with a particular kind of straw called a bombilla. These straws are built with filters to catch the leaf particles and allow the drinker to enjoy a smooth concoction until the last drop.
A healthy alternative to coffee
As popular as coffee is, it can cause unpleasant side effects, including elevated heart rates, trembling hands, and making it tough to relax until the caffeine wears off. More and more people who are sensitive to coffee have been turning to mate as a friendly alternative. It has a stronger nutritional profile than coffee, with more amino acids and vitamins, and helps avoid the "crash" often associated with coffee.
Of course, everyone reacts differently to different things. Try substituting coffee with yerba mate a few days each week to see how it works for you. If you're interested in mate, whether for its purported health benefits or as a productivity enhancer, you can purchase it online or at many grocery stores that emphasize natural foods.
BioMed Central: Yerba Maté (Illex Paraguariensis) ingestion augments fat oxidation and energy expenditure during exercise at various submaximal intensities
Circle of Drink: Green Tea vs Yerba Mate
BrainReady: Yerba Mate vs. Coffee: Which is Healthier?