Yerba maté (pronounced YER-bah MAH-tay) literally translates to “herb cup”. This highly caffeinated beverage is both refreshing and stimulating. Yerba maté has a unique spicy-sweet flavor that is strongly vegetal, herbal, and grassy. It is commonly flavored with mint or citrus, and even enjoyed roasted or sweetened.
Yerba maté comes from a small tree native to the subtropical highlands of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. The drink is made by steeping the dried leaves and twigs in hot water. Yerba maté was introduced to Europeans by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay and Uruguay. The Guarani Indians drink yerba maté to boost immunity, cleanse and detoxify the blood, combat fatigue, control the appetite, reduce stress and eliminate insomnia.
The Culture of Yerba Maté
Consumed from morning to evening, yerba maté is the beverage of choice for millions of South Americans as a healthy alternative to coffee. In fact, maté bars are as popular in South America as coffee houses are in the United States. Not only is yerba maté, known as the “drink of friendship”, at the center of Argentinean tea culture, it is also the national drink of Brazil, eastern Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as Syria and Lebanon.
Today yerba maté is growing in popularity and attracting the attention of American scientists and consumers for its refreshing taste and reputed health benefits.
How to Brew
Yerba maté can be made in many different ways. The most basic preparation is to boil 8 ounces of water and steep one teaspoon of leaves for 3 minutes. The same leaves can be re-infused several times, with increasingly longer steeps.
A very versatile herb, yerba maté can be enjoyed iced, as well as blended into a latte.