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Yerba Mate

An herbal tea beverage that is popular in South America

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It's green tea in Japan, chai in India, but when you're in South America, the drink of choice is Yerba Mate (pronounced YER-ba MA-tay). It's a very popular form of herbal tea that is commonly seen in countries like Argentina and Paraguay. Yerba Mate comes from the Yerba Mate tree (Ilex paraguarensis) so it is not a true tea.

Part of the uniqueness of Yerba Mate is the way it's traditionally prepared and served. Unlike the teapots and cups you may be used to, you'll need a gourd and a bombilla for your Yerba Mate. The little gourds are specifically designed as a drinking vessel, and the bombilla is a metal straw with a strainer built in to one end.

The cup or gourd is filled about three-quarters full of herb, then pour hot water over the herb until almost submerging all your herbs. Let is sit for a few minutes for the herbs to absorb the water, and add more hot water to keep it liquid. Stick the bombilla into the wet herbs with the filter end down. You drink your tea through the straw. You can add more hot water for repeated infusions, until the resulting tea has little taste left.

You can use regular tea brewing methods with your Yerba Mate, but it's fine texture makes it difficult to filter the herb from the tea. You might want to use coffee filter paper.

Some of the health benefits attributed to Yerba Mate:

  • Improves energy levels
  • Lots of antioxidants
  • Aids in digestion
  • Boosts immune system
  • Relieves depression
Yerba Mate supposedly does not contain caffeine, but rather a closely related compound called "mateine" which is a similar stimulant. Mateine is not as harsh to your body and does not produce the same addictive results. Others have claimed that the chemical compound within Yerba Mate is in fact caffeine, and to think otherwise is just wishful thinking.

Though the traditional way of brewing Yerba Mate is with loose tea (buy direct), you can also buy tea bags (buy direct) for quicker brewing

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