Yerba Mate is a plant that can be cultivated for the use in Tea (officially an infusion). It grows and is cultivated primarily in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay. The tea is part of the culture in these countries along with plenty of other regions around the world.
More details about Yerba Mate: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerba_mate
Take a trip to Argentina and you will not make it an hour without seeing someone walking, sitting, or standing with a thermos and mate. In the lower south american countries Yerba Mate is completely embedded in the culture. It has a long list of health benefits and equally strong social benefits. Families, friends, and coworkers will share a mate throughout the day. If you are with a group, it's a chance to slow things down and share a mate. If you are by yourself, it's a chance to reset and to get ready for whatever is next in the day!
There are many Yerba mate health benefits but below are a few of the top:
High in Antioxidants. Yerba mate has some of the highest level of antioxidants (Higher than green tea!). Antioxidants can prevent damage to your cells keeping you healthy.
Little or No energy crash. Yerba mate drinkers report that they receive a similar energy boost as coffee however the energy crash and jitters don't exist. Mateine may be more of an urban myth however it's claimed that rather than having caffeine, Yerba contains mateine, a variant of coffee responsible for preventing the rapid drop of energy.
Weight and body fat loss. Yerba mate is known to suppress your appetite and increase your metabolism.
Healthy lifestyle routine. Visit Argentina and you'll see people in the park drinking mate rather than beer. After work in the house, mate is the drink of choice. People rave about mate partially because of the taste and health benefits but there is a real connection with the tradition and routine of preparing your mate. The mental state associated with the preparation and process naturally calms people and refreshes the mind.
See more benefits and link to the research in the link below:
Primarily English speaking countries see the word "Mate" and pronounce it as "Meit" as in a partner, friend, etc. "What's up mate". In the context of Yerba Mate tea however, it is pronounced as “Yerba MAH tay” or if you’re in Argentina “Sherba MAH tay.” An easy way to remember is that it rhymes with "latte". Here's a good link if you want to never forget how to say it: https://youtu.be/xTUVOBsxqHk
You may also see mate spelled with an accent mark "maté." English speaking countries tend to spell it with an accent “maté” to lessen the confusion but in spanish this means “I killed” so I try to avoid it. I tend to write "Yerba mate" to make it easier to understand I’m referring to a Tea rather than a partner/pal/friend.
The Yerba mate tradition began with the indigenous Guarani people. The mate has been used for centuries during celebrations and rituals promoting good health. The Argentine gauchos (cowboys) embraced the energy providing benefits of mate and can be seen riding though the pampas with the mate at their sides.
Continuing the traditions the Guarani started, friends and families still share the mate among each other. A lot of families will share a mate after work with some snacks. If you go to a restaurant in Argentina before 9:00 PM, it will be empty because the Argentinians are out doing things with their boost of Yerba energy from earlier in the day.
Say any of the three and most likely people will know you're talking about pretty much the same thing. But if you want to know specifics
Yerba or Yerba mate - Refers the tea leaves
Mate - Can refer to just the gourd/cup or can refer to the final product (The tea in the gourd, ready to drink)
What do you need to drink Yerba Mate?
Yerba - The tea leaves
Mate - The gourd (or a cup if you forgot your mate)
Bombilla - A metal straw with a built in strainer
Hot water - Around 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit
Thermos - This lets you continually pour the hot water after it's heated up
You can purchase the flavored yerba or you can flavor it yourself. Some of the popular flavors include:
Orange (Yerba Naranja). Here it is on Amazon
Mint and Herbs (Hierbas Serranas). Here it is on Amazon
Lemon (Yerba limón). Here it is on Amazon
Sugar (Azúcar). You just pour some sugar on top of the mate after the leaves are in it.
The most common method is to drink mate hot at about 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also drink mate as a cold tea commonly known as Tereré. This is nice sometimes on a hot summer day.
Be careful since you are dealing with close to boiling water. The 1st sips of the water can be very hot. So take baby sips.
People have varying processes and all consider their way to be the best and only way. So take the steps below and choose what you want to call the best process. There is also a one time curing process you can use if you buy all natural gourds. I'll provide a link lower on the page to describe the curing process.
Become the "Cebador" or "Cebadora." This will be the person in charge of filling the mate with water, handing off to the group members, and making sure no one is slowing the process ;) If you are drinking the mate on your own, then you only need to make sure you follow your own rules
Start to heat up your water. You should heat it up to between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it heats up, pour it into your thermos to keep it hot. Fill the mate gourd about 3 quarters high with the Yerba leaves. This gives room for the water
Put your complete palm over the top of the mate completely sealing the top and flip it over. Turn the mate right side up. You'll see some tea dust on your palm. Just shake it off and move on. This prevents some of the natural dust from flowing into your bombilla (straw). Tilt and shake the leaves a bit to one of the sides so you have a bit of dip in the leaves against one of the walls. Pour a few drops of regular temperature water into the lower side of the mate leaves. This lets you more easily position the bombilla and also prevents the leaves from burning when you add your first pour of hot water.
Slide your bombilla into the same indentation of leaves on the side of the mate gourd. Some people will seal the top of the bombilla with a finger as they slide it in. This prevents any tiny particles from being forced through the strainer. You want to slide the bombilla all the way to the bottom and towards the center. The goal is that when you pour your water in, the water settles where the bottom of the bombilla is.
You are now Ready! Slowly pour the hot water over the indented portion of the leaves. Stop pouring when you see the leaves in the indent rise to a little lower than the level of the rest of the leaves. The idea is to start with steeping one side of the mate leaves and then as the taste dissipates, you can start to pour over the side of the mate to pull in the taste of the leaves that haven't steeped yet.
Don't move the bombilla for the rest of your session! You can now suck up the 1st taste of mate tea. This is the job of the Cebador(a) to make sure everything is ready for the group. The 1st sip or two may be fairly quick because the leaves have not yet had the chance to absorb the water.
The Cebador(a) will now fill up the mate again with hot water and pass it to the next person in the group. The group members have to follow some unwritten rules also. I was told not to "hold the microphone", which meant that you are not meant to hold the mate for an extended period of time. Once you get it, take your sips until you hear the sound of emptiness through the bombilla and hand it back to the Cebador(a). Do not say gracias or Thanks after you've finished sipping. If you say gracias or thanks, it means you don't want any more mate for the rest of the session. This is a hard one to remember. If you are not efficiently drinking your mate, the Cebador(a) may say "Che boludo" and motion for you to finish up your drink. The functional purpose of keeping your drinking speedy is that if you are drinking with a group of 5 people, it takes a little while for the mate to make its rounds. So if you have a slow sipper, it means everyone needs to wait longer and also the water in the mate starts to cool off. The Cebador(a) will now fill up the mate again and hand it off to the next person in the group to take their sip. Once you have had enough mate, you can tell the cebador(a) gracias and they will know to no longer pass the mate to you. If you are the cebador(a), it's your responsibility to stop serving the mate after the flavors of the tea have dissipated. After you're all done, find a nearby tree and shake out your used yerba to give the leaves back to the earth (or throw it out). Give the mate a rinse and just wipe it out with your fingers and let it dry.
Both Yerba mate and Matcha are great to drink for all of their health benefits. Check out our Yerba Mate vs Matcha comparison page to better understand how they differ.