Move Over, Espresso! Yerba Mate Has Arrived
Author Aly Dort / Category Lifestyle / Published: July 2019
Are You A Procaffeinator?
I’ll admit that since becoming a Mum, I am fairly useless until I’ve had at least one cup of coffee in the morning. For you other coffee drinkers, you know that there is a fine line that exists between being happily-caffeinated and overly-so.
As someone who lives with a moderate baseline of anxiety, being over-caffeinated is a pretty awful experience.
So when I heard of Yerba Mate, I was intrigued to learn more about this espresso-like drink.
You’ve likely heard of this trendy plant, which has gained popularity here in North America and in Europe, but what’s so special about this beverage? Isn’t it a kind of green tea or something?
It sure isn’t!
Some Interesting Facts About Its Roots
Yerba Mate isn’t a type of green tea at all, though it shares some similar taste qualities. It is native to South America: Specifically, countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Southern Brazil.
It’s one of the only plants in the world that produces caffeine naturally. In addition to caffeine, it contains theophylline and theobromine, which are the stimulants also found in coffee plants.
This popular beverage was dubbed “Cowboy Coffee” in Argentina, and was interestingly consumed in place of food during periods of drought and famine as it’s been shown to suppress appetite.
Yerba Mate is traditionally enjoyed in social settings and is consumed from a gourd, through a special straw called a bombilla that prevents the leaves and twigs from passing through.
What Makes Yerba Mate So Great?
In order to fully appreciate this gift from Mother Nature herself, we’re going to get a little nerdy about what makes Yerba Mate so special.
The theobromine and theophylline found in this plant work alongside caffeine to provide unique stimulant effects. The result has demonstrated improved focus, mood and memory. Caffeine in and of itself has been studied extensively and one benefit is its production of dopamine, the “feel good” chemical that also affects learning and concentration. Mate contains a level of caffeine higher than green tea and just short of coffee, meaning you get a tonne of nutritional value with lower caffeine intake.
While it’s true that Espresso shares many of these same benefits, it’s been reported that the increase in energy and alertness from Yerba Mate comes as a steady, consistent rise without the dreaded crash that accompanies coffee consumption.
Whereas espresso is fairly acidic- thus being a large culprit of tummy troubles-Yerba mate has an alkaline base and is far more gentle on the stomach. So no more of those mid-morning coffee runs!
Yerba Mate also contains something called Trytophan, which is an amino acid that is critical to serotonin production. Trytophan has been shown to help stabilize mood, alleviate stress and, ironically, can help with insomnia among other benefits... Something that espresso is guilty of exacerbating in many cases.
While coffee, espresso and green tea contain lots of antioxidants and have demonstrated numerous health benefits, Yerba Mate has a much higher antioxidant count, along with a whopping 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids and 11 polyphenols (which are micronutrients packed with antioxidants).
Taste And Preparation
Yerba Mate on its own has a fairly distinct taste, of which some new drinkers might not be too fond. Many fans express that it is an acquired taste, similar to that of craft beer or fine wine. To me, Yerba Mate tastes like the earth. Similar to many green teas, it’s reminiscent of what a vibrant meadow might takes like. The longer you leave the tea to brew, it will develop a more bitter taste, though you’ll also get more of its nutritional value. Of course, you can counteract its bitterness by adding some honey or milk of choice. It’s imperative that you do not use boiling water to brew the tea, however, as this will burn the leaves.
Plants can provide us with so many valuable nutrients and benefit us in a plethora of ways, but consuming them with intention and tracking your progress can help you kickstart your dedication to personal wellness.
Aly Dort is a freelance illustrator and stationery designer living in Halifax, N.S. She is passionate about mental health, social sustainability and empowering those around her.