Yerba Mate explained
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Sustaining a balanced, high-energy life
Navigating today's world sometimes demands ongoing multiple challenges that put our minds and bodies under intense commitments and strenuous routines in addition to lack of rest. That’s one of the reasons why many of us consciously decide to do things differently to get a different result, starting with the things we eat and drink. Whatever the case might be, one of the central lessons from this year will be for sure choosing nourishment as our own number one priority. Ironically, oftentimes, this can leave our drive levels quite depleted thanks to certain uncanny circumstances we’ve gone through – like this year – when life has set the bar considerably high in our jobs, family and of course, collectively. Obviously, there needs to be something like a source of energy. A boost. Fortunately, in Paraiso Tropical Latin Food Market, you can get The Boost.
Enter yerba mate
Yerba mate is a highly popular refreshment in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, southern and central-western Brazil, the Gran Chaco of Bolivia, and southern Chile. Also, in places as distant as Syria and Lebanon (where Argentina is the main supplier), yerba mate is popular among the Druze community.
In Canada, the United States, Syria, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, South Africa, France and Spain, there has been an increasing growth of local established yerba mate drinkers in recent years.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Guarani and then, the Tupi peoples, consumed yerba mate in the area that now comprises of southern Brazil and Paraguay. Due to widespread consumption during and after the Spanish colonization (particularly in Paraguay in the late 16th century among both settlers and indigenous Guarani), yerba mate became Paraguay’s main commodity.
By the mid-17th century, the Jesuits domesticated and established plantations in Misiones, Argentina, disrupting the Paraguayan producers of yerba mate, but the Jesuits' subsequent expulsion in the 1770s contributed to the thriving industry in Paraguay. Although a century later, economic and demographic devastation triggered generalized havoc, even losing complete regions with yerba mate plantations to the hands of Argentina.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the yerba mate plant became domesticated, once again giving way to plantation systems: for years to come, Brazil and Argentina see the status of largest producer shift back and forth between them, though Brazil is the largest producer today with 53% of the shares for the yerba mate market; followed by Argentina at 37%, and Paraguay at 10%.
The mighty leaf benefits
Yerba mate (“yerba" being a Spanish term for “herb”) or just mate or chimarrao in Brazil – which Paraiso Tropical prides itself on having one of the best selections in town – provides you with the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate. But in taking a close look at the benefits we find:
While drinking yerba mate with its corresponding health benefits, you still, of course, need to be involved proactively. Eating healthy, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep are necessary to losing weight. However, drinking yerba mate at least once or twice a day, you’ll be able to see the results very soon. Studies have been made in Brazil backing these claims.
But how can a brewed beverage help you achieve your weight loss goals?
Since the percentage of caffeine in yerba mate is fairly high, your body’s metabolism will speed up, which will, in turn, cause the body to burn more fat, because this involves using more energy. So there’s an energy boost, as well as a physical boost. Because of this, athletes drink yerba mate.
Promotes Feelings of Well-Being
The higher ratio of xanthine – caffeine, theobromine and theophylline – content of yerba mate can also improve your mood.
Theobromine is naturally found in cacao and selected tea plants and, unlike caffeine, it offers a longer lasting, more relaxed energy without peaks and crashes, which feels more like a good night of sleep coupled with a “holistic high”, meaning you feel more focused.
Meanwhile, theophylline contains anti-inflammatory effects. It relaxes and opens air passages in the lungs, aiding easy breathing.
A regular cup of yerba mate can aid with digestion and other problems, such as constipation or diarrhea because of its high choleretic effect (the increase of the volume of bile secretion from the liver), as well as the amount of solids secreted.
Poor sleep habits impact your body, increasing blood sugar, hormone imbalances, increased fat storage, and higher stress levels. These can all promote weight gain.
Yerba mate encourages healthy, deeper sleep. It is known to promote more REM cycles, which is vital for restful, restorative sleep.
Improves Brain Function
We already know that yerba mate can help improve your focus and concentration, thanks to its caffeine content. We also talked earlier about the “mood benefits” that yerba mate provides.
Stress and depression have adverse effects on your brain; the brain eventually suffers from cognitive decline. Relieving this negativity is healthy for your brain and keeps it operating like a younger brain.
Speaking of a younger brain, did you know that the many antioxidants that are packed into one cup of yerba mate protects your brain from aging? By protecting your brain with antioxidants, you make a whole lot of difference for the both your brain and you.
Yerba mate may also have the power to improve your memory. Scientists have noticed a boost in people’s short-term social memory after they have been on a regimen of yerba mate.
A nice, warm cup of yerba mate is one of the most pleasant ways to relieve fatigue. The caffeine helps for sure, but the real champion here is theobromine, but we already discussed its effects earlier in regards to promoting feelings of well-being.
Meanwhile, the caffeine – a vasoconstrictor (meaning that it causes the blood vessels to shrink), stimulates the brain cortex and the heart. Caffeine also acts as an analgesic, so your body feels even better.
Rich in Polyphenols and Antioxidants
Green tea is widely applauded for its many antioxidants, but did you know that yerba mate contains considerably more? The dried leaves of the yerba mate plant contain 10% polyphenols, which is a large group of antioxidants.
In yerba mate, most of the polyphenols are found in shredded leaves and the least amount in twigs. That may help you decide which brand to purchase if this is a selling point for you.
A clear example of the benefits of a high-percentage polyphenols regime can be seen in the Mediterranean diet: people do not suffer from allergies, asthma, and inflammatory diseases at the same rate as people in countries with a non-Mediterranean diet.
Another benefit of polyphenols leads back to weight loss. Polyphenols are rich in chlorogenic acid, which reduces food cravings and encourages the body to burn more fat.
Reduces Blood Pressure
One of the many health benefits of yerba mate is that it reduces blood pressure. Although not entirely scientifically proven, it has been found out that consuming yerba mate presented significantly fewer diagnoses of hypertension and coronary disease.
Different yerba mate varieties have differing compositions. Depending on the ratio of caffeine to theobromine, you could see improved blood pressure readings.
Boosts Immune System and Protects the Liver
Yerba mate tea may help keep our immune system strong, even fighting simple things like the common cold thanks to polyphenols, which work to strengthen defenses.
Like theobromine, the saponins found in yerba mate have anti-inflammatory properties. The latter are natural emulsifiers that boost the immune system.
Because yerba mate aids in digestion, it takes some stress off the liver. Yerba mate is also discovered to have hepatoprotective properties, which means it protects the liver cells.
Regulates and Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
If you suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetes, yerba mate is likely the ideal drink for you. Studies have shown it to slow hyperglycemia or excess blood sugar.
Flavonoids have also been proven to reduce glycemic index significantly. A diet with a high level of flavonoids would be very effective in lowering blood sugar levels.
Protects Heart and Prevents Heart Disease
Heart disease is a leading cause of death these days. Antioxidants have been shown to lower the risks of heart disease and studies suggest that yerba mate may even protect your heart because it contains so many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Drinking yerba mate can also lower cholesterol. A study indicated that people who drink 11 ounces each day lowered their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – also called bad cholesterol – by up to 13%. This study was done using a control group who did all the same things as the yerba mate drinking group, only without the yerba mate. The control group did not lower their levels.
Antibacterial Properties: Protects Against Infection
Researchers have found yerba mate to kill e. coli cells, which is a bacterium found in the intestines and causes stomach cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. Drinking yerba mate may also protect against other intestinal parasites.
Studies have concluded that the components of yerba mate deactivate food pathogens. Considering that e. coli and other bacteria could be deadly, this is a huge win in yerba mate’s favour!
While yerba mate is never recommended as a replacement for a person’s antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, it is possible that regular drinking may help reduce symptoms.
In fact, yerba mate is quickly becoming the beverage of choice for better health, energy and well-being: it's being incorporated into bottled energy drinks, diet pills, and more!
No wonder why yerba mate among the Guarani people was a food, drink, and medicine, yet it had a prominent place socially as well.
Yerba mate is obtained from the leaves of the South American rainforest holly tree (Ilex paraguariensis). Ka'a (a Guarani language word for “yerba mate”) was already known to the Guarani peoples (a group of culturally related Indigenous populations in South America, who inhabited eastern Paraguay, as well as parts of Brazil and Argentina) by the time the Spaniards arrived to the southern cone. When asked about the origin of yerba mate, the Guaranis say that there is a legend among them which explains that Yari, the goddess of the moon, taught a native Guarani family the preparation and drinking of yerba mate.
The drink is drunk from a gourd made from pumpkin, wood, and bulls’ horns among others using a straw made of alpaca, bamboo, or stainless steel called bombilla. There's a hot version (the most common preparation), as well as a cold one. Yerba mate can be produced with or without stems, in tea bags, organic and flavoured.
How do you brew yerba mate?
Every yerba mate drinking country prepares the refreshment differently, so there is no "correct" way. In Argentina, it is prepared unlike how it’s prepared in Uruguay, which is not the same as in Paraguay nor in Brazil. But whatever the case might be, you will basically need:
Loose-leaf yerba mate
A gourd in which to put the herbs in
Hot water; for best results, it’s recommended to be at 82°C
Cool water at room temperature
Bombilla or yerba mate metal straw with a filter at one end
Fill your gourd 3/4 full with yerba mate.
Cover the top of the gourd with your hand, turn it upside down & shake it a bit to bring the fine 'dust' particles to the top & help prevent blockage of the bombilla. This sorts the mate bits by size & helps it to last longer. Return the gourd to a tilted position & you will see the 'dust' on your hand & the yerba mate will be on a slant, which is important for the next step.
Leave the mate at an angle, pour some warm water (about 40°C) on the base of the slope, filling up the lower half of the slant of the yerba mate.
Now you’ve got to pour hot but not boiling water (about 80°C) where the bombilla meets the yerba, allowing it to continue to swell.
Once all the water is absorbed after a couple of minutes, put the bombilla – covering the top of it with the thumb – and in a digging motion, press until you reach the bottom of the gourd to make a wall between the levels of yerba mate, this is, to accentuate the ‘bridge’: one half is wet & low, the other is high & dry.
Add hot water to the lower side, aiming as close as possible to the bombilla to avoid the higher (& dry) part of the yerba slant from getting wet.
Your mate is ready! Just drink it using the bombilla and repeat Step 6 as many times as you want.
Some countries like Paraguay use cold water and sometimes in that country, along with Brazil, it is common to mix the yerba mate with a local fruit – this cold version of yerba mate is called tereré. In fact, tereré is the national drink of Paraguay. Other countries use sugar and/or milk but in other places, for example, in Uruguay, this is generally frowned upon, unless you are elderly. In Argentina, it is common to use pretty hot water (80-90°C) whereas, in Uruguay, mate drinkers usually use water that is close to boiling (85-95°C).
Mate is great, isn’t it?! Be it as a healthier alternative to coffee, a way to reduce consumption of artificial flavours and/or chemical-based drinks, a remedy to stimulate focus and clarity or a path towards reconnecting with life’s vitality, we hope you found this insightful. Also, visit our south or north stores since, well, there’s 33 different kinds of mate that you can begin to try and enjoy at Paraiso Tropical, especially during this cold winter season!
Are you already a yerba mate drinker? If so, we'd love to know how you prepare yerba mate (or how it's prepped in your country) & your recommended yerba mate brands! Leave us a comment below!