Yerba mate, also known as mate, is a most popular drink of Argentina like tea and coffee. It is obtained from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant and is equally enjoyed in South America and various other parts of the world.
Yerba mate is a refreshing and invigorating beverage which possesses caffeine and has been used to improve athletic performance, to stimulate brain, heart and other parts of the body.
Caffeine present in yerba mate causes alertness like coffee without jitters. This caffeinated concoction of dried yerba mate formulated in gourd and enjoyed through silver straw is their favorite public beverage. This article details everything you need to know about yerba mate including processing, brewing and its health benefits, smoked yerba mate and how long does yerba mate lasts.
What Is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is obtained from a holy tree known as Ilex paraguariensis, native to South America. Holly trees are found in the rainforest of South America and contain some quantities of caffeine. Leaves are dried and grounded which is used to make tea. Yerba mate is rich in minerals and other phytochemicals which boasts a punch of benefits.
Making Infusion is the wisest way to enjoy all the characteristics of a plant in a single cup. Yerba mate is also used to substitute the energy drink capable of improving both physical and intellectual performance.
Mate is an Argentina’s popular drink and is equally enjoyed in Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil and in the West. It is also used as an alternative to coffee providing about 30-40 mg of caffeine which is much less than a cup of coffee (90-200 mg) but is sufficient enough to stimulate the nervous system.
Processing Of Yerba Mate
Yerba mate processing needs a lot of time and patience, requiring 4-6 years to grow after plantation. After harvesting, processing of yerba mate is accomplished in 4 steps like
- Firing (Sapecado including smoked or unsmoked)
- Dehydration (Canchado)
- Aging (Beneficio)
After picking leaves, they undergo a process called sapecado, which removes enzymes. In this process, leaves are exposed to fire for 20-30 seconds which removes humidity. Automatic dehumidifiers can also be used which can reduce the weight up to 20%.
Secado, a second phase of firing and can be done through two methods including “carijo” and “barbacua”.
In this process, leaves are exposed directly to heat of fire and are referred as unsmoked yerba mate. In case of air dried yerba mate, yerba mate is flash heated with hot air and slowly dried with warm air at 175 degree F.
In this method, leaves get heat through smoke via a channel under the earth and leaves dried through barbacua process is referred as smoked yerba mate.
Smoked yerba mate was a topic of consideration as it was claimed to cause mouth cancer when used on regular basis. These claims lacked scientific evidences and were considered as myth. However, leaves undergone barbacua method are always labeled as “smoked yerba mate”.
In this method, dehydrated leaves are cut utilizing machelets and wooden mills.
Beneficio or aging is of prime importance in the processing of yerba mate. This long term process may last from 6-24 months and play a significant role in developing flavor and quality of yerba mate. Shorter the time it takes, more bitter the taste will be.
Milling is the last step of yerba mate processing that involves the separation of aged leaves from sticks or twigs. After separating the leaves, they are grinded in blenders and the strength of yerba mate depends on the proportion of leaves. Yerba mate gives a stronger taste if there are large quantities of leaves.
Health Benefits Of Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is an excellent source of polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals which possess health promoting effects. It also contains xanthines like caffeine, theophylline and theobromine.
1. May Improve Focus And Alertness
Caffeine present in yerba mate helps improve mental energy, alertness, focus and attention. 
2. Aids Weight Loss
Yerba mate contains caffeine and polyphenols which suppress appetite and affect the enzymes which help the body burn more calories. 
3. May Improve Athletic Performance
Yerba mate has been used by athletes to improve energy levels, reduce fatigue and improve physical performance.
4. Upgrade Immune Health
Yerba mate is packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which help fight infections, relieve inflammation and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. These powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of yerba mate boost the immune system and promote a healthy lifestyle. 
5. Help Manage Diabetes
Polyphenolic compounds in yerba mate possess antioxidant activities which have potential to regulate blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity. 
6. Promote Heart Health
Antioxidants like polyphenols and caffeoyl compounds help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, prevent deposition of fats and promote heart health. 
How To Prepare Yerba Mate
To make the yerba mate for your friend or family
- Fill the picture with hot water.
- Pour loose leaf yerba mate in a cured gourd covering 2/3rd of the gourd.
- Drain the yerba mate on the side of the gourd to make a little mountain and small valley inside.
- Humidify the little valley with a sprinkle of cool water leaving the small mountain dry.
- Now embed silver straw gently in a little valley.
- Stream hot water into a little valley and enjoy until there is no more water left.
- Stage 6 Pour boiling water into the “little valley” mostly up the gourd. Taste until water is finished.
Ice Cold Yerba Mate
Ice cold yerba mate is a refreshing and invigorating beverage enjoyed in South America usually after siesta.
- Pour water and ice in the picture.
- Add some lemon juice and sweetener according to your taste.
- Take loose yerba mate in a glass cup.
- Imbed silver straw to the bottom of the cup, pour water and enjoy the refreshing beverage.
How Does Yerba Mate Taste Like?
Yerba mate is consumed much like tea and has a strong, earthy and bitter taste and has a eucalyptus like aroma. Flavor may also vary depending on method of processing and type of tree. For instance, leaves which are dried after exposure to wood fire present a smoky flavor. Moreover, male plants produce leaves which have stronger taste and contain more caffeine while female plants produce leaves with subtle flavor.
Yerba mate may result in bitter taste when you use boiling water, too much brewing time, moving your bombilla and large quantities of leaves are used.
How Long Does Yerba Mate Last?
Yerba mate is packed with healthy nutrients which offer a variety of benefits to the body. But, “how long does it last?” Well, yerba mate or mate can last for 2-3 years after packaging. The Expiration date is determined from the time it is packaged. According to the Government of Argentina, the expiration date was two years and nowadays it is considered to last for 3 years.
However, once brewed, yerba mate can be stored in the fridge for about five days or until you don’t add sugar. If you have added the sugar, yerba mate can only be stored for 24 hours.
As far as the effects of yerba mate is concerned, they may occur within half an hour and last for 90 minutes.
Yerba mate is a refreshing and popular drink obtained from ilex paragurience trees enjoyed worldwide. After harvesting, yerba mate tea undergoes processing and are labeled as air dried yerba mate, smoked yerba mate, unsmoked yerba mate depending on methods used for processing.
Smoking yerba mate gives a strong smoky flavor and was once claimed to cause mouth cancer. Yerba mate is packed with nutritive substances and offers a punch of benefits to the body.