Yerba Mate, our 'super-food' drink

This infused herbal drink tradition has endured for centuries in Argentina - and its neighboring countries - where people have long gathered to imbibe mate [ma-teh] to awaken the mind, perform extraordinary feats and to exchange confidences. If you are an existing Gaucha Chica customer, you should already be familiar with the "Yer-vita" mate sachets that are included with each purchase.
Mate, is the energy-boosting beverage of choice in Argentina. It has the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate, all in one beverage. Of the six commonly used stimulants in the world: coffee, tea, kola, cocoa, and guarana, yerba mate triumphs as the most balanced and healthful while it stimulates. Not to mention its abundance of antioxidant and detoxifying agents that make this a 'super' beverage of sorts.
Brewed from the dried nourishing leaves of the yerba (herb of) mate plant (a species of holly native to the South American Atlantic rainforest - Ilex paraguariensis), yerba mate contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and abundant polyphenols. Remarkably, the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society concluded in 1964 that, “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value” and that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.” That sounds pretty 'super-drink' to me.
Traditionally mate is consumed from a calabasa gourd ― though these days the drinking vessel can be made out of just about anything ― with a silver metal straw called a bombilla [bom-bee-ya]. The straw is integral to the drinking process because it filters out the herb leaves. Drank straight, a sip of hot mate will taste a lot like a strong, slightly bitter tea. This is mainly how it has been enjoyed in the Southern Hemisphere - Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Bolivia - for hundreds of years. It is not uncommon to see people walking along the streets with mate in hand in those countries — some even with a thermos of hot water in the other hand to refill the drink as it gets low. It’s customary to add water to the yerba mate anywhere from 15-20 times, until it loses its flavor. Drinking mate is often times a group experience; it’s a symbol of hospitality and friendship. 
Although not as well known yet in the US, mate can be found in some specialty and gourmet markets as tea infusions - both hot and chilled - as well as blended with food items such as ice cream and chocolate.


Gaucha Chica anecdote - the four petal clover-like flower of the mate plant is a central image to the Gaucha Chica logo.  

Share your favorite mate story below.

Subscribe to the Gaucha Gourmet blog RSS feed using

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published