Yerba Mate: A Coffee Like Tea But Neither Of The Two

Yerba mate is technically neither tea nor coffee, yet it tastes like both and has a similar effect on the body. Look no further than this South American super-beverage prepared from soaked leaves and twigs of an indigenous plant if you're searching for an energy boost that doesn't come from an espresso bean. Locals have been using this beverage as a natural pick-me-up for centuries. About 80 milligrams of caffeine per cup can be found in herbal yerba mate tea, the same amount as in coffee. 

The drink itself dates back to the pre-Columbian era, when the local Guaran people in Paraguay discovered and aggressively began to cultivate the Ilex paraguariensis plant (a member of the holly family), dry the leaves and twigs, and infuse them in hot water—primarily as a wellness beverage. After the Spanish colonised Paraguay in the 17th century, they too started drinking it, and it eventually became the main export of the nation. The crop was also grown in other South American nations, such as Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Even after coffee and other types of tea were introduced to the continent, yerba mate remained one of the most consumed beverages there. 

Like coffee, yerba mate has a highly distinctive flavour that might take some getting used to. It is strong, bitter, and vegetal. It expresses itself extremely well, much like this happy feeling. It can feel pretty trippy depending on how much you drink. This high can actually be caused by the caffeine in it. 

A Custom 

Even a long-standing custom that honours this sensation surrounds the consumption of yerba mate. The term yerba mate, which translates to "gourd herb" in reference to the tea's traditional drinking vessel, describes that ritual. A mate (dried gourd), a bombilla (a unique drinking straw that removes the leaves), and a thermos for carrying the hot water are necessary. The location of the practise is generally a park or other outdoor gathering place. One person, known as the cebador, fills the cup about two-thirds full with the leaves and adds a small amount of heated water to release the tastes as the others sits in a circle. The cebador then angles the bombilla into the mate to prevent the straw from getting stuck. To prevent the straw from becoming clogged, the cebador slips the bombilla into the mate at an angle before topping it off with hot water (never boiling, as that will burn the leaves). As the gourd is handed around, each person sips from the bombilla. (Note: Avoid using the bombilla to stir; it is exceedingly rude to do so!) 

Mates and bombillas come in a broad variety of styles, and in South America, each individual will typically have their own distinctive set. Mates can be fashioned from wood or porcelain and decorated, but historically they are created from genuine gourds. Bombillas can also be constructed from a variety of materials, such as bamboo, stainless steel, and silver. 

Each time hot water is poured into the gourd as it is handed around, the flavour of the leaves is made more potent. You can always add sugar or milk to your yerba mate if you don't like it bitter, but if you want to drink like the natives do, you'll take it plain. There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to yerba mate food pairings, but it's typical to see pastries or crackers served with the beverage. 

By no means is this laborious procedure the only way to consume yerba mate. Many South Americans brew a thermos of this herbal tea to sip throughout the day for an energy boost, similar to how we do with our morning coffee.