It is a super drink from South America and has the same amount of caffeine as coffee. Mate has gained popularity around the world. Brands such as Perrier, Red Bull and PepsiCo have launched mate-based drinks. Worldwide sales of this mate drink will amount to almost 2.18 billion euros in 2023. What is the origin of yerba mate?
It was a traditional infusion made from the leaves and twigs of a native plant. It was consumed in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay for its health benefits. Many still brew it using methods similar to those developed by their indigenous ancestors. It is a symbol of culture and tradition in the Southern Cone.
The leaves of yerba mate (an evergreen shrub) are cut by hand. They are dried, ground and left to age in a controlled environment for nine to 24 months. Once prepared, it contains more antioxidants than any other tea-based beverage. The Guarani Indians considered it a gift from the gods. It was used to communicate with the divinities and as medicine.
Other tribal groups throughout South America valued it highly. “Mate was considered green gold,” says Valeria Trápaga. She is an Argentine mate sommelier and the author of Mate in body and soul. “It was a currency with a trade that extended far beyond the region of production.”
The caffeine in yerba has a gradual effect when drunk. The caffeine is not ingested all at once. Among the benefits of drinking this tea are its antimicrobial properties. It supports weight loss and lowers blood sugar. It reduces cholesterol, the risk of heart disease and chronic inflammation.
Mate has yet to gain the global traction of Japanese matcha or Indian chai. But it has gone from being a sacred cultural tea to an international caffeinated sensation. Lagier sees no problem with mate’s global expansion. Even if many companies do not recognize the indigenous people who discovered the plant’s benefits. The origin of yerba mate, however, will always be associated with them.