What is yerba mate tea? A traditional South American favorite, yerba mate is a naturally caffeinated herbal tea that is full of flavor, incredibly versatile, and brimming with benefits for wellness.
While yerba mate tea may not be well-known in many parts of the world, its popularity is growing rapidly in North America, Europe, and Asia - many hundreds of years after South Americans discovered this flavorsome, healthful beverage.
Keep reading to learn more about yerba mate and some of the reasons why this herbal tea is finding a home in so many tea cupboards around the world.
Yerba mate (also called simply 'mate') is a richly flavorful, slightly astringent herbal tea made from the dried leaves (and often the young stems) of the Ilex paraguariensis shrub, a member of the holly (Aquifoliaceae) family that is native to parts of South America. Ilex paraguariensis is found in the wild and is also cultivated on plantations to produce yerba mate.
For centuries, yerba mate has been enjoyed by indigenous peoples in South America for its satisfying taste and its many wellness benefits (to boost energy, support the immune system, detoxify, and much more).
Today, mate is still a beloved, highly popular beverage in many parts of South America (in Argentina, for example, mate is consumed in about 92% of households). As in other parts of the world, where coffee time and teatime are important daily and social rituals, so do many South Americans relish their mate.
Yerba mate can be prepared from the plant's fresh green leaves, from dried ground leaves, or from roasted leaves. What the drink is called depends on its preparation and the region or country in which it's being served. For example, mild mate cocido is brewed green leaves (usually in a teabag), mate tea is brewed roasted leaves, and dried, crumbled green mate leaves can be brewed with hot water into chimarrão or with cold water into tererê.
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Traditionally and still today in South America, mate is sipped from a dried gourd (also called a mate) through a metal straw with a filter tip (called a bombilla). Once the dried mate leaves are packed into the gourd, hot (not boiling) water is poured over to make the tea, which can then be sweetened, if desired. More hot water is added as the tea is consumed. (You'll find a traditional yerba mate recipe here.)
In other parts of the world, yerba mate (like other types of tea) is made from loose, dried leaves or teabags. And, due to its caffeine content (mate has about 70 - 85 mg caffeine per 8 oz. cup) and numerous beneficial properties (like boosting energy and supporting weight management), yerba mate is becoming a popular additive in other foods, beverages, and dietary supplements.
Enjoy mate just as you would coffee or tea - served hot or iced, as is or with flavoring, a favorite milk, or sweetener added. Mate is also delicious in a latte or soda. Some people do find mate "straight up" to be too strong or even bitter, so you may want to experiment with adding extras to your tea, or try one of the many flavored yerba mate teas available until you find the perfect tea for you.
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A tea that is flavorful, aromatic, and filled with benefits for good health is hard to resist. Yerba mate is one of these teas - tasty, versatile, and healthful, this tea may be an excellent choice to include in your tea cupboard.
What are some of the ways this naturally caffeinated tea can enhance well-being? Mate may support overall physical and mental wellness - it's brimming with antioxidants, is a heart-healthy drink, enhances energy, stimulates and tones the digestive system, may support weight management, is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and so much more.
You'll find lots more information about how very good yerba mate can be for us on our Yerba Mate Benefits pages.
Now that you know a bit more about yerba mate, why not give this herbal tea a try? So very healthful and tasty served hot or cold, with or without a sweetener of choice, in your favorite mug or a traditional gourd, yerba mate is a versatile drink that provides a host of benefits for good health.
As always, check with your natural health physician before adding any new tea or herbal tisane to your family's routine, just to be sure it's a good choice for your household. And, why not drop by our Yerba Mate Side Effects pages to read about some safe-use tips and precautions associated with this tea.
Andersen T, Fogh J. Weight loss and delayed gastric emptying following a South American herbal preparation in overweight patients. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2001 Jun;14(3):243-250.
Arbiser JL, Li XC, Hossain CF, et al. Naturally occurring proteasome inhibitors from mate tea (Ilex paraguayensis) serve as models for topical proteasome inhibitors. J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Aug;125(2):207-212.
Bastos DHM, Oliveira DM, Matsumoto RLT, Carvalho P, Ribero ML. Yerba maté: Pharmacological Properties, Research and Biotechnology. Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Science and Biotechnology. 2007;1(1):37-46.
Bixby M, Spieler L, Menini T, Gugliucci A. Ilex paraguariensis extracts are potent inhibitors of nitrosative stress: a comparative study with green tea and wines using a protein nitration model and mammalian cell cytotoxicity. Life Sci. 2005 Jun 3;77(3):345-58. Epub 2005 Feb 9.
Conforti AS, Gallo ME, Saravi FD. Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) consumption is associated with higher bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Bone. 2012 Jan;50(1):9-13.
Gonzalez de Mejia E, Song YS, Ramirez-Mares MV, et al. Effect of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) tea on topoisomerase inhibition and oral carcinoma cell proliferation. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Mar 23;53(6):1966-1973.
Harrold JA, Hughes GM, O’Shiel K, et al. Acute effects of a herb extract formulation and inulin fibre on appetite, energy intake and food choice. Appetite. 2013 Mar;62:84-90.
Heck CI, De Mejia EG. Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): A Comprehensive Review on Chemistry, Health Implications, and Technological Considerations. Journal of Food Science. 2007 Nov/Dec;72(9):R138-R151.
Klein, GA et al. Mate tea (Ilex paraguariensis) improves glycemic and lipid profiles of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes individuals: A pilot study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2011 Oct; 30(5):320-32.
Loria D, Barrios E, Zanetti R. Cancer and yerba mate consumption: a review of possible associations. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2009 Jun;25(6):530-9.
Miranda DD, Arcari DP, Pedrazzoli J, Jr., et al. Protective effects of mate tea (Ilex paraguariensis) on H2O2-induced DNA damage and DNA repair in mice. Mutagenesis. 2008 Jul;23(4):261-265.
Puangpraphant S, Berhow MA, Vermillion K, et al. Dicaffeoylquinic acids in Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis St. Hilaire) inhibit NF-kappaB nucleus translocation in macrophages and induce apoptosis by activating caspases-8 and -3 in human colon cancer cells. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 Oct;55(10):1509-1522.
Santos I, Matijasevich A, Valle N. Maté Drinking during Pregnancy and Risk of Preterm and Small for Gestational Age Birth. J. Nutr. 2005 May 1; 135(5):1120-1123.
Yerba mate. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerba_mate.
Zak V. 20,000 Secrets of Tea. New York, NY: Dell Publishing, 1999.
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