Spotlight: Yerba Mate
Author | groundwork coffee Date | January 21, 2020
As part of our month long celebration of tea, we're highlighting Yerba Mate, the energizing, woodsy middle ground between coffee and green tea.
Consumed all over the world for its health benefits and for a jolt of energy (Yerba Mate has a caffeine content rivaling coffee), Yerba Mate is made from the naturally caffeinated leaves of the South American rainforest holly tree.
Traditionally in South America, the tea is consumed ceremoniously through a mate gourd, a small circular drinking vessel with a hole at the top. The gourd can be made of metal, wood, or ceramic. Intended to help people bond with each other, the drinking ritual, known as Tomando Mate, represents hospitality and welcoming.
During Tomando Mate, the tea is prepared in the small gourd which is passed around a group of people who drink the beverage through a filtered metal straw, known as a Bombilla. The gourd is filled with an excess of tea so that each guest can drink the entire gourd and then fill it with hot water again to be passed around counter-clockwise.
There are a number of customs surrounding the Yerba Mate ceremony. The gourd should be passed to the next person with the straw facing towards the recipient. The person receiving the gourd should not touch the straw at all as this will agitate the leaves at the bottom of the gourd, potentially getting them in the straw and resulting in a not so pleasant sip. It is customary for the person drinking the tea to say "thank you" only after they have completely finished the beverage. And if the person would like more they should wait to say "thank you" until they are completely satisfied.
Because of its high caffeine content, Yerba Mate can make a great occasional replacement for coffee or a morning ritual on its own. Eddy Cola, CEO of Groundwork Coffee, is a big fan of Mate, consuming it each morning for a "lighter drink than coffee" and to help curate a “sense of well-being.” He attests that Yerba Mate "gives a good kick but, different and slower than coffee, an arc where coffee is more of a spike."
While certainly enjoyable as a solo drink, the Mate ritual is quite special. According to Eddy, "One of the things about the ritual that is so nice is that it's about sharing. The significance of sharing a straw with someone creates a bond. It opens you up to conversation."
Ready to try Yerba Mate yourself? Pick up a box of loose-leaf tea in our online store and maybe invite a friend to share.