Yerba mate (leaves) is made from a South America native plant called Ilex paraguariensis. The leaves of the plant are steeped in hot water to make a beverage known as mate. Mate is common in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and southern Brazil as well as in Syria and parts of Lebanon. Brazil, Argentina, and Chile have yerba mate plantations, and even after the arrival of coffee and other kinds of tea in South America, Yerba mate remained one of the most popular drinks in these countries.
Harvest time is typically from January to April. Through a sifting process done by specialized machinery, the aged yerba is separated from twigs, leaves and stems. The yerba is then blended in the proper proportions for each brand. Some yerba are toasted and blended with spices or citrus peels to create unique flavors.
Another thing that makes the yerba mate drink a very unique experience is the usage of yerba mate gourds and bombillas. Each yerba mate gourd is a piece of artwork, and the bombillas are very cute. Sharing the yerba mate from the same gourd with friends using one’s own bombilla is an old custom.
The fresh yerba mate leaves have the lovely smell of beans. And the yerba mate liquor has a beautiful green color. Most interestingly, the taste of the liquor has a hint of the sweetness, and is pretty smooth. Yerba mate contains caffeine. To the first time yerba mate drinkers, try following the instructions below and adjust the amount of yerba mate leaves and steeping time after your first test brew.
Yerba mate leaves: 3 g
Water: 150 ml
Water temperature: 85o C
Steeping time: 15 seconds
Throw away the first brew if you don’t like strong tea. The yerba mate leaves can be brewed up to 4 times.