The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Tips and Guide to Buying and Brewing
Yerba Mate Tea
Yerba mate tea or tisane is a vegetal tasting herbal drink that comes from a
species of holly (Ilex paraguariensis) native to sub-tropical South America. The
two top producers of mate are Argentina and Brazil, with smaller amounts
grown in Paraguay and Uruguay.  Mate is sold and shipped
worldwide and
has recently become quite popular in the
U.S., however, exports of mate have
begun to decrease as domestic consumption has continued to steadily grow.
The yerba mate plant is a small shrub or tree
that can grow up to 15 meters tall.  Its
leaves are evergreen with a serrated edge,
with small greenish- white flowers with four
petals.  It has a fleshy red stone fruit
approximately 4 to 6 mm in diameter.  Mate
contains
caffeine, antioxidants, vitamins, min-
erals, and other compounds.  Its flavor is
strongly herbal, vegetable, and grassy, like
that of some
Japanese green teas.

Mate is available
green or roasted.  It is
aged (or stationed) which gives it a milder
flavor.  The longer it's aged the more mellow
and mild the flavor. Yerba mate also comes
smoked.  The curing or stationing can be
anywhere from twelve to twenty- four
months, with most averaging eighteen months.  Mate that has been cured for twenty-four
months is considered to be
Especial.

The price of mate varies greatly from country to country, of course. A 2.2
lb. package sold in South America costs about $1.00 U.S. dollar.  Its cost
is considerably higher in the U.S..  There are over 200 brands of mate,
with approximately ten available for export, with Las Marias the market
leader.

                                              
Yerba mate is made by steeping the dry
                                              leaves (and sometimes twigs) in hot water
                                              (not boiling). In Argentina, where it's the national drink, it's drunk
                                              from a hollow gourd or horn cup (also called a guampa) using a
                                              metal straw called a bombilla that has a filter on the end placed in
                                              the gourd.

                                              Mate comes in many different styles, loose leaf or in
tea bags,
drunk hot or cold,
flavored with another herb-such as mint, or citrus rind.  In Paraguay,
Argentina, and Brazil it's sold in specialty shops or from street vendors, sweetened, either hot
or cold, with
milk or fruit juice (which acts as a sweetener).

In Argentina and Brazil it's popular for break-
fast because of its caffeine, or as afternoon
tea, served
British style with cakes or past-
ries.  Toasted mate is milder without the as-
          tringency of green mate and has a
          slightly spicy fragrance.  When shaken
          it gets a creamy consistency known as
          mate batido.  In the coastal cities of
          Brazil it is called chimarrao (and in Ar-
          gentina, cimmaron) drunk the tradition-
          al way, green, shared from a gourd
          with a bombilla.

          Another style of mate called terere, is
          drunk in Paraguay, western Brazil and
          the Litoral Argentino.  In Paraguay its
          prepared most commonly using
cold or iced water and drunk from a horn cup (guampa)
          with a silver straw or bombilla.  In Argentina it's prepared using cold or
iced fruit juice,
          which sweetens the drink.  The method using cold or iced water can be very bitter.
          Medicinal
herbs (called yuyos), mixed with a mortar and pestle can be added for either
          flavor or medicinal purposes.

                                                            In Uruguay they prefer a style of mate with very small
                                                            leaf cut, no sticks, and a large amount of mate dust
                                                            which intensifies the initial infusion.  The most popular
                                                            brand of mate in Uruguay is Canarias.

                                                            In
Argentina they prefer drinking mate with a small gourd
                                                            and bombilla.  Sugar and sometimes lemon or orange
          rind is added to the mate, then warm water (sometimes with more sugar) is poured over
          the leaves and it's drunk immediately (there's no leisurely sipping as with fine teas).
          Their favorite style of mate is a medium cut leaf, stems, and yerba dust.  In Argentina
          Taragui is the most popular brand, which is a mild mate, along with Roasmonte, with a
          strong and smoky flavor, and Cruz de Malta, also a mild mate with a large leaf cut.

          In Paraguay they like their mate brewed cold (terere) with ice water.
          Using a bull's horn (guampa), the mate is added, along with lemon or
          lime to the ice water, and it's drunk in one long continuous sip.  The
          style of mate they prefer is similar to Argentina with leaf, stems, and
          dust, but the characteristics of their mate is quite different, being bit-
          ter when brewed
hot, but refreshing when cold.  Their favorite brand
          of mate is Pajarito.

          As you can see there are many different types and styles of yerba
          mate to choose from and also many ways of preparing it.  It all comes
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down to personal tastes and preferences.  As with tea you can go sweet, smoky, grassy, and everywhere in
between.  Yerba mate also shares a number of the same
health benefits as green tea, so it's also good for you,
too.  
Enjoy.