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Ditch Your Energy Drink for This Healthier Alternative

April 18, 2022
Yerba-Mate

Energy drinks can generate side effects such as insomnia, nervousness and tachycardia; while the energizing effect from Yerba Mate is 100% natural and its many benefits come from nature itself. Yerba mate is a natural drink that increases your energy levels; but it’s far from being a commercial energy drink. This ancient, natural beverage is made from the leaves of the Yerba Mate tree. Although it also contains caffeine and other substances that act on the central nervous system; this energizing effect comes from nature itself, not from artificial manufacturing. Yerba mate can also be a great alternative to coffee, too!

What is Yerba Mate?

There are only a handful of plants in the world that produce caffeine and yerba mate is one of them! Along with tea, coffee, cacao, kola (or cola) and guarana, the yerba mate herb is used to produce a caffeinated beverage. While prepared as an infusion to create a tea-like beverage, yerba mate contains no actual tea leaves. Yerba mate is an herb native to South America and is used to make the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uraguay and Southern Brazil. In fact, yerba mate is consumed 6 to 1 over coffee in these countries. Yerba mate is often described as earthy, vegetal, herbaceous and bittersweet. Imagine a fresh rainforest floor and you can likely picture the flavor of yerba mate.

What is Yerba Mate Made Of?

The yerba mate tea is brewed at home by adding hot water to the dried leaves from the Ilex Paraguariensis tree, which only grows in South America. It does not contain fat or sugar; and has very little calories, carbs and sodium. Beyond that, Yerba Mate is a wonderful source of vitamins (especially in the B group) minerals (potassium, magnesium, iron) and antioxidants (polyphenols, saponins, caffeoyl). Yerba mate also naturally contains stimulant agents like caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline; this is why it is a great source of natural energy.

Health Concerns with Commercial Energy Drinks

Energy drinks often contain five times the amount of caffeine as soft drinks. This amount of caffeine can cause nervousness, anxiety, headaches, stomachaches, hyperactivity, insomnia, dehydration, accelerated heart rates, and in extreme cases seizures and strokes. Most energy drinks contain an amount of sugar that exceeds the recommended daily allowance and potentially contributes to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity in sedentary individuals.

How to Prepare Yerba Mate

Mate is a versatile drink and there are many ways of preparing it, depending on the type of yerba mate and liquid you use. There is a huge variety of yerba: with or without stems, finely ground or roughly cut, flavored, sweetened, blended with other herbs. Mate can be drunk with water (hot or cold), milk or even juice. However, the most popular and traditional way of preparing mate is plain, with hot water. Here’s how to prepare yerba mate.

Yerba with stems: If you are a beginner or if you prefer a more mild flavor, yerba with stems is the way to go.
Yerba without stems: If you want a strong and more bitter flavor, this must be your choice. It holds the flavor longer and is the most popular type of yerba in Uruguay and South of Brazil.

What you need:

  1. Yerba Mate
  2. Bombilla (metal straw)
  3. Mate gourd (or mug)
  4. Lukewarm water and hot water
  5. Thermometer for accuracy

Instructions:

The traditional way:

  1. Fill gourd with yerba – Fill 2/3 to 3/4 of the gourd with yerba and slant it at 45-degree angle. If you are using yerba without stems, cover the top of the gourd and shake it up and down, to remove the small particles of the yerba before slanting it (45 degrees angle)
  2. Add lukewarm water – Pour lukewarm water as close as the wall of the gourd on the lower half of the slant of yerba. Looking at the mate from above, you will see a half-filled with water, and half dry. Wait until the water is absorbed by the yerba (1 minute).
  3. Repeat but with hot water – Repeat this process but this time with hot water – around 176 Fahrenheit or lower. It is not recommended to use water at a higher temperature than that because it could burn the yerba, affecting its taste and performance.
  4. Put the bombilla –Put the bombilla (covering the top with thumb) on the same lower side of the yerba, on a digging motion, and pressing until you reach the bottom of the gourd.
  5. Press the yerba with the bombilla – Press the yerba with the bombilla, creating two differentiated levels: one higher and dry, and other lower and wet.
  6. Add hot water to the lower side – Add hot water to the lower side, aiming as close as possible to the bombilla to avoid the higher (and dry) part of the yerba slant to get wet.
  7. Your mate is ready – Just drink it using the bombilla and repeat step 6 as many times as you want.

No gourd or bombilla? No problem!

First you will need a tea strainer, tea infuser, or teapot. If you have one at home, you can prepare yerba mate just like you would any other tea by filling it up with looseleaf yerba and steeping it in hot water (1 tablespoon per 8 ounces of water).

Tips:

  • Never use boiling water. Temperatures of around 140-170ºF work best
  • For every 8 ounces of fluid, use 1 tablespoon of yerba (add less or more to adjust to your own liking)