Before Timothy Ferris (of “Four Hour” fame) started to sing its praises, few people outside the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world had ever heard of yerba mate. By now, huge quantities are being exported to every part of the world.
However, with so much nonsense available online regarding “health foods”, how much of this is hype?
On the one hand, its supposed (but largely unproven) benefits include controlling weight, curing depression, relieving allergies, improving digestion, boosting your immune system and reducing blood pressure. Now, we’re not doctors, and most medical professionals will hesitate to make these claims until more research has been done. We’re just mentioning this as anecdotal evidence, which you’re free to believe or ignore.
Contrariwise, it does contain a whole laundry list of nutrients and has been used as a traditional remedy for centuries. What we’d like to focus on instead, though, is its stimulant properties.
Like coffee and tea, it contains caffeine. Unlike those drinks, this is paired with theobromine and theophylline (in more than trace amounts).
Apparently, this prevents the caffeine from taking effect all at once. Unless you drink a ton or are unusually sensitive, this means no jitters or nervousness, no difficulty in falling asleep later, and no “crash” once it leaves your system. If drinking some herbal tea can elevate your mental and physical energy levels without straining your heart, why wouldn’t you?
In Argentina and other Latin American countries, serving yerba mate can actually be a semi-formal social event with its own special customs and etiquette (think of how traditionally-minded Chinese serve green tea). If you think this will impress your friends, you can certainly buy some accessories, but it brews perfectly well in an ordinary teapot, French press or even a coffee percolator (clean the filter first, though, if you also like espresso).
Just know that the same leaves are typically brewed several times, until they lose their flavor, which is why we prefer it as loose leaves rather than packaged in teabags. Unfortunately, this particular brand contains a little too much fine powder, which is not traditionally incorrect but may put some people off.
This product comes from Brazil and is certified as GMO-free and organic, making it more expensive than other varieties, but presumably also healthier and more effective. Unless you’ve had yerba mate before, you might not notice an improvement in taste, but the organic kind does seem slightly smoother and less smoky. If you really don’t know what to expect, think of green tea that’s slightly less bitter – or stewed grass clippings, according to some people.