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
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 

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

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.
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.


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

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,