Tasting Yerba Mate – Hana Tea House

Tasting Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate

There are only a handful of plants in the world that produce caffeine, and yerba mate is one of them. Along with tea, coffee, cacao, kola (or cola) and guarana, the yerba mate herb is used to produce a caffeinated beverage. While prepared as an infusion to create a tea-like beverage, yerba mate contains no actual tea leaves.

Yerba mate is an herb native to South America and is used to make the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Southern Brazil. In fact, yerba mate is consumed 6 to 1 over coffee in these countries.

The origins of yerba mate are filled with folklore. Discovered by the indigenous peoples of the forests of Paraguay (the Guarani) and Southern Brazil (the Tupi), it was known as an herb “from the gods” used mostly for physical stamina. The herb was a dietary staple for agriculture-dependent and nomadic and warrior-based lifestyles, depending on the tribe. It was also used for medicinal purposes. Natives believed yerba mate was a gift given to them to sustain life, increase vitality and heal the sick. As a spiritual herb, yerba mate was used for worship and often used for religious and other important tribal ceremonies.

Yerba mate is often described as earthy, vegetal, herbaceous and bittersweet. Imagine a fresh rainforest floor and you can likely picture the flavor of yerba mate. But the flavor of yerba mate can vary subtly based on growing regions, cultivation practices and brewing techniques. Many styles of yerba mate contain tender stems and branches from the tree, which can impart a woodsy flavor to the tea. If the plant is harvested late, it can be higher in tannins than a young plant, which can yield a more astringent and bitter herb. Some producers roast the leaves and twigs for a toasted flavor. Others age the harvested herb in wood containers to impart even more layers of forest-like flavor.

The small green leaves give way to scents of fresh grass, wood and bark. And it brews into a soft, golden yellow liquor with a medium-bodied, toasted and earthy flavor.

Buying and Storing Yerba Mate

Storing yerba mate properly will ensure that it will remain fresh as long as possible. The herb won’t really go “bad”, but it can get stale if it sits around, exposed to the elements for too long. If stored properly in a cool dark place, in an opaque airtight container, away from light and moisture, and far from pantry items like coffee and spices that can leach flavor into the herb, yerba mate can last anywhere from one to two years before it should be used or replaced.

It’s always a good idea to buy tea from a reputable company that can tell you when and how the yerba mate was processed and packaged as well as provide storage tips to help prolong the life of the herb.

For more information about how to best care for your yerba mate tea, contact us and we are ready to assist you.