You, Me, and Uni is in the process of preparing a couple of new tea blends and one of them contains Yerba Mate. If you are not familiar with this highly nutritive tea, settle in, and pay attention.
You may have noticed Yerba Mate springing up in health food stores and cafes that serve fine tea. I have been delighted by its recent popularity. I was first introduced to this tea on the Big Island of Hawaii while staying at a health retreat almost twenty years ago. We ate all raw food for a week. I did a work trade to reduce my fees by preparing vegan meals for the participants and staff. I learned how to roll sushi and prepare salads without lettuce. They used sprouts as a salad base for more health benefits, which I found delicious and genius.
One of the staff members was very charming and introduced me to dancing in the kitchen and enjoying Yerba Mate in the cool evenings. The night air rushed through the screens in the big house, cooling us off at night. Sipping on hot tea in the kitchen with deep conversations were the perfect ending to our days.
These cooking lessons carried on with me throughout my life. Even though I didn’t love Yerba Mate when it was first introduced to me, my new Hawaii friend swore of its health effects. The experience and the memory were so pleasurable, that I continued to drink it until I loved and craved it.
Yerba Mate has a bitter taste to it. Drinking it unsweetened is for the hardcore health gurus and I realized that wasn’t me! I took to making it cold and adding lemon juice and honey (or sugar in the raw). A year later, when I moved to The Big Island, I would add a couple of glass jars of this cold brew tea to a cooler and carry it around Hawaii with me. It was so refreshing after a sweaty hike or a swim in the hot ponds.
The origins of Yerba Mate gave me a story to associate with its beauty. I felt drawn to the place it came from and feel it added to the experience of drinking it. Guarani natives made tea from its leaves and used it as currency with the surrounding villages in Argentina.
“Caá means ‘weed’ in Guaraní but it also means plant and forest. For the Guarani, the yerba mate tree is the tree par excellence, a gift from the gods. The conquerors learned from the Guarani the use and virtues of yerba mate and made its consumption extraordinarily disseminated from their area of origin to all the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. Later the Jesuits introduced its cultivation in large reductions. They were responsible for yerba mate and how it is known in the civilized world.” Yerba Mate Argentina
Benefits of Yerba Mate
The reasons to drink this fantastic tea are numerous. Take a look at a few of the scientific claims for Yerba Mate from Healthline.
- Full of antioxidants and nutrients – every person can benefit from this!
- Reduces belly fat and may help with weight loss
- Improves mental focus and clarity
- Lowers blood sugar levels (but maybe not with a ton of honey, like I like it)
- May lower infection rates
- May lower rates of heart disease
Yerba Mate is a caffeine-rich tea – however, the effects are not to be compared to coffee. Due to the high levels of antioxidants and nutrients, our bodies will process this caffeine differently with a slow and steady level within the body. Don’t expect a crash like you may experience with caffeinated soda, black tea, or coffee.
“Mate was consumed by the Guaraní and Tupí peoples. It is the national beverage of Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay and is also consumed in the Bolivian Chaco, Southern Chile, Southern Brazil, Syria (the largest importer in the world) and Lebanon, where it was brought from Argentina by immigrants.” Wikipedia
I did not have the experience of drinking hot Yerba Mate out of a traditional gourd until three years ago while on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina. Enjoying tea at Dobra Tea House with my family and best friend, I ordered their Yerba Mate served in a gourd with fresh local honey. There was a metal straw inside with dry tea flakes on top, filled to the brim. I was also served a glass teapot of hot water, sitting on a stand over a candle to keep it warm. Hours and hours would pass while chatting with unlimited cups of Yerba Mate. These leaves did not become more bitter the longer they soaked in hot water like other caffeinated teas. I noticed I had a heightened sense of energy and creativity for the rest of the day after these long sessions of Yerba Mate.
Ways to drink Yerba Mate
There are many brands to purchase and many ways to drink this healthy tea. I buy from Mate Factor (flavored tea bags) and Guayaki (loose-leaf). Let’s explore a few of my favorites. I encourage you to find your desired cup of tea.
Yerba Mate has specific instructions for preparation, soaking versus dry, and how and why to use a metal straw. Read more about it here. The most important lesson (in my opinion) is to not pour boiling hot water over the delicate Yerba Mate leaves. You want to retain the benefits and the flavor and let your water cool first is the best way to do this.
Mason Jar preparation
Add the desired amount of dry Yerba Mate leaves, sweetener of choice, and non-boiling hot water. Use a filtered metal straw to drink directly from the mason jar. Add more hot water whenever you want more, to the same leaves. Or you can cover and steep for 5-30 minutes and then strain out the tea leaves for a one-time brew.
There are many ways to make a traditional Yerba Mate in a gourd. A simple way is to add hot water first and then add the dry leaves on top. Slowly allow them to sink into the gourd on their own. Use a metal straw to drink. Add more hot water when it is half empty to extend your tea experience.
I prepare in a mason jar (described above) and remove the leaves after 30 minutes for a rich brew. If adding a sweetener, do this while it is still hot. You can add medicinal herbs to Yerba Mate, such as Know Your Gut Trust Your Gut for a healthier experience. Before adding to the fridge to chill, add a dash of lemon or lime juice.
Sweetened or Unsweetened
When adding sweeteners such as honey or sugar, you create a mate dulce or mate doce, which means sweet mate. Unsweetened mate is called mate amargo, translating to bitter mate.
Mix Yerba Mate with herbs
This tea pairs well with almost every herb you want to make into a tea. Both Uni teas are delicious when combined with Yerba Mate. Stay tuned for a new Yerba Mate blend which also includes beneficial herbs for your health. Consider trying the following with Yerba Mate in your next brew.
- Ginger powder or peeled root
- Lemon Peel
- Red clover and nettles
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden is a writer, editor, and owner of Walden Writes For Women.