Thursday, October 8, 2009

What is Yerba Mate?

The first time I heard about yerba mate, I said it wrong by myself. Yerba sounds just the way it looks, but mate is pronounced "ma-tay". It took me longer to get used to the name than it did to get hooked on drinking it! So where does the name come from? Yerba is Spanish for herbs. Mate refers to the gourd cup used for drinking. In other words, yerba mate is literally a "cup of herbs".
Mate also has nothing to do with Australia other than the fact that it comes from the Southern Hemisphere! It actually flourishes in South America where it is comparable to North America's love for coffee and Europe's love for tea. Yerba mate has been around for centuries and can be seen all over Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil. It is so popular that you can regularly see people walking the streets with mate in hand. No, I've never been there to see it first-hand but it turns out my brother was even drinking it when he spent 3 months in Guyana.

The tea is brewed from the leaves of the yerba mate tree -- a species of holly that can grow up to 45 feet tall (15 meters). The leaf is packed into a hollowed out gourd and filled with boiling water. A kind of straw called a bombilla sits in the gourd for sipping the brew. Some cultures consider the drinking of mate a ritual. The gourd is passed around between friends and continually refilled until the taste is gone. This doesn't mean you can't brew it in a coffee-maker (like I usually do) but it's the traditional method for drinking mate.

Ten years ago yerba mate was almost unknown in North America but the times are changing. The health benefits from drinking yerba mate are far greater than that of green tea and as a result more health-conscious people have begun picking up on the concept of drinking mate. Sales are now 20 times what they were in 1995 and that figure will continue to rise as more people learn about it. Celebrities are even now boasting about their newly found drink.

Since switching to mate a couple years ago I have found myself full of energy and no longer needing as much sleep. I rarely get sick and feel altogether healthier than I've felt in years. Drinking mate also gives a strange buzz much like drinking coffee but without the shaking. I drink a cup in the morning and find myself alert, focused and completely refreshed. I'm ready to start the day and I often drink a cup or three as the day goes by.

You can purchase yerba mate online but it's usually available at your closest health food store. Some people are initially put-off by the funny look and taste of it. I agree plain yerba mate tea tastes a little like hay but I also don't drink my green tea or coffee black. A little sugar and milk taste great. If you'd like to try drinking it a different way, I have a growing list of recipes on my site. You may find something you like better and you might eventually be able to send in a new recipe!

I highly recommend trying yerba mate tea out for yourself -- especially if you're a coffee drinker. There are no side-effects and the health benefits are great. The experts say to have a glass of wine before bed every night for a healthier body and a longer life but why not go beyond that? I say have a cup of yerba mate every morning. You may end up loving it as much as I do!

1 comment:

  1. Wisdom Natural Brands, the parent company of Wisdom of the Ancients has yerba mate royale, which is made with SweetLeaf stevia. You can also get it without stevia, if that doesn't float your boat. They also have vanilla, lemon, and chai spice flavors of yerba mate royale.