Yerba mate is very popular across South America, and this guide presents everything you need to know to try it on your trips.
This drink is popular because of its cultural significance, unique flavor, natural energy boost, potential health benefits, and its role as a social beverage.
Travelers to Argentina and elsewhere will note the presence of the yerberías, cafes where this drink is served.
So, if you’re planning a trip to South America, get your notes and paper, as I will share some information with you.
Table of Contents
Yerba Mate Basics
Yerba mate is a traditional South American beverage made by steeping the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant in hot water.
Originating from the Guarani people, it has cultural significance in countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil.
The yerba mate plant, scientifically known as Ilex paraguariensis, belongs to the holly family.
So, the drink is prepared in a hollowed-out gourd and sipped through a metal straw called a bombilla.
Yerba mate contains caffeine, theobromine, and other stimulants, which give you a natural energy boost.
As a result, this is a cherished drink for its social aspect, often shared among friends during mate circles.
The taste is distinctive, with a robust, earthy flavor with herbal undertones.
Beyond its cultural role, it has gained global popularity for its potential health benefits, including antioxidants and nutritional elements.
Therefore, whether enjoyed for its cultural significance or potential health perks, this drink is a unique and widely consumed beverage.
If you travel to Argentina, the chances are you will see a bunch of yerberías throughout the country.
Where to Buy It
In Argentina, yerba mate tea is used in many ways, but I really think travelers can benefit from what is called “mate cocido.”
Mate cocido (literally, “boiled mate”) is typically in tea bags and is widely consumed in various settings, from households to social gatherings.
Its availability is widespread, making it easily accessible at supermarkets throughout the country.
Notably, Dia, a prominent supermarket chain originating from Spain, is a great place to purchase yours.
The shelves of Dia supermarkets show an array of brands, catering to the diverse preferences of consumers.
For example, you can get a La Tranquera brand for 850 Argentine pesos (about $1 US dollar). It should have about 50 tea bags.
How to Make It
Your friends in Argentina will tell you there are “traditional” ways to make your tea, but it really all comes down to personal preferences.
So, to brew yerba mate from tea bags, start by placing a tea bag in a cup.
Bring water to a near-boil, then allow it to cool slightly to around 150-160°F (65-71°C). If the water is too hot, it can damage the tea.
Pour the hot water over the tea bag, covering it completely like you would with any other tea.
Let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes, ensuring not to exceed this timeframe. Oversteeping can alter the flavor profile and potential benefits.
Once steeped, remove the tea bag, and it’s ready to enjoy.
So, this modern approach to the s a convenient preparation method, maintaining the distinct flavor and potential health advantages.
Adjust steeping time based on personal taste preferences while being mindful not to compromise the balance of flavors and benefits.
For instance, the tea in the picture was steeped for 5 minutes, which is 2 minutes longer than the La Taqueira recommended steeping time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Online queries about yerba mate predominantly come from foreigners seeking information about this South American tea.
Intrigued by its cultural significance and potential health benefits, these inquiries reflect a global interest in exploring and understanding it beyond its traditional cultural context.
As a result, I’m going to answer some of those frequently asked questions.
What Does Yerba Mate Do to Your Body?
Yerba mate has various health benefits, including a natural energy boost from caffeine and theobromine.
For instance, it contains antioxidants, aids digestion, and may enhance mental focus.
That said, though, excessive consumption can lead to side effects, so moderation is key here for a balanced impact on the body.
Is It Safe to Drink Yerba Mate Every Day?
Drinking yerba mate daily is generally safe for most people when consumed in moderation.
That said, excessive intake may lead to potential health risks, including digestive issues.
So, travelers with certain medical conditions should consult a healthcare professional before making it a daily habit.
What Are the Side Effects of Yerba Mate?
Excessive yerba mate consumption can result in side effects like digestive problems.
Of course, there are also some increased risk of certain diseases.
Similarly, there is a potential for complications for travelers with certain health conditions.
Therefore, moderation is crucial, and consulting a healthcare professional is something you definitely should consider, especially for those with pre-existing medical concerns.
Does Yerba Mate Give You a Buzz?
Yes, yerba mate can provide a “buzz” due to its caffeine content.
If someone typically gets jittery with coffee, for example, they may feel similar.
So, the combination of caffeine, theobromine, and other stimulants can lead to increased alertness and energy.
That said, the intensity varies among travelers, and factors like preparation method and quantity consumed contribute to the overall stimulant effect.
How Much Yerba Mate is Safe to Drink Daily?
The recommended daily intake of yerba mate varies, but generally, moderation is key. Consuming 1-3 cups per day is considered safe for most travelers.
Once again, though, personal tolerance and health conditions should be considered, and consulting a healthcare professional is great for personalized guidance.
Yerba mate is very popular across South America, and this guide presented everything you needed to know to try it on your trips.
So, this drink has cultural significance, unique flavor, natural energy boost, potential health benefits, and a role as a social beverage.
Travelers to Argentina are able to visit yerberías, cafes where this drink is served.
If you are planning a trip to Argentina, use the information here and enjoy your tea!
AJ Paris is a travel photographer based in New York. He is the editor of Caravanzers.
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