What Is Yerba Mate and How Amped Will It Get You?

Most folks kick off their day with a cup of coffee, but that pre-noon jolt can come from all manner of places. Today, we’ll take a look at yerba mate. Perhaps after reading you’ll make the switch from coffee compadre to a yerba mate mate…ok, we know it’s a long shot, but just give us a chance, here! 

What is yerba mate?

Yerba mate is a beverage akin to tea made from a plant of the same name that is native to South America. The drink—essentially an herbal tea—is made by steeping the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant in hot water. 

Does yerba mate have caffeine? 

Oh yes, my friend. Yerba mate is well-known for its natural caffeine content. But how much caffeine is in yerba mate? About the same amount you’d find in a cup of coffee, which is around 80 mg. 

How to brew yerba mate?

The simplest way to make yerba mate is to brew it like any other loose leaf tea, pouring boiling water over the mate leaves and letting it steep for 5-6 minutes. Make sure to filter out the leaves before drinking, so you’re not chewing your morning tea! The traditional way to drink it is by filling a hollow gourd with yerba mate leaves and twigs, adding a little bit of near-boiling water, then inserting a straw (called a bombilla) at an angle so the leaves don’t block the hole. Then, more water is added to fill up the gourd. The vessel is passed around and people sip the yerba mate through the straw. You can add sugar and/or milk to yerba mate, no one will get angry. 

What does yerba mate taste like?

Yerba mate has a slightly bitter taste due to the high tannin content of the leaves. Researchers have found that leaves from younger plants possess more tannins than leaves from older, more mature trees. This means that the older the leaves, the less bitter the taste. So, much like fine wine, aged mate may be more preferable to one’s palate. Yerba mate is also described as tasting grassy and a little bit like green tea. 

There are many yerba mate brands on the market that blend yerba mate’s natural flavors with other fruit or herb flavors. (Sporked tasted and ranked the best yerba mate you can buy at the store, if you’re interested in finding out more about that.) So, if you’re purchasing a bottle of chilled yerba mate, you’re probably getting a sweetened version that may also taste like cranberries or mint or passion fruit. 

Is yerba mate an energy drink?

Well, it depends on what you mean by “energy drink.” Yerba mate is a natural herbal tea that increases your energy levels through caffeine. So, if you think of something like coffee or green tea as being an energy drink, then yerba mate is, too. But it’s not really in the same category as something like Monster or Red Bull. That said, there are certainly more traditional energy drinks that include yerba mate in their ingredient list. 

Though yerba mate may not be as widely available as good king coffee, it definitely should be more acknowledged as a natural caffeine source. Starbucks, the ball is in your court. Give the people what they want! Also, maybe one of those almond croissants, we’re feeling a little peckish! I feel like that would go pretty well with this tea!

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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