The health beverage market is slowly growing to include more drinks than the typical 'low cal' or sugar-free offerings. Teas and infusions are becoming particularly popular among the health-conscious and those looking for a source of caffeine that doesn't leave them feeling jittery.
Yerba mate and matcha have some of the best name recognition among these 'new' health drinks, but people often confuse the two. While both products offer caffeine and antioxidants, there are real, distinguishable differences between yerba mate vs. matcha.
Are you looking for a coffee alternative with a difference? We're breaking down the difference between yerba mate and matcha for you right here.
Hint: only one is real tea.
What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is a product made from the dried leaves and twigs of a holly tree (Ilex paraguariensis). When steeped in water, it produces an earthy (think smoky and woody) taste that's simultaneously refreshing. If you want to speak technically, yerba mate is an infusion rather than a tea.
Although it's now popular all over the world in various forms, the drink finds its origins in South America. You'll most commonly recognize it as a drink consumed from a dried gourd via a metal straw. But the history of yerba mate is so much more than that.
In the first legend, yerba mate preparation came to the Guarani people from the goddess of the moon (Yari). In the second, they received it from a god called Pa' I Shume, a tall, bearded god who gifted an aging man with the plant and taught him to prepare it. When the man drank the tea, he grew stronger and went off to refind his kinsmen. The final legend refers to the legend fo the Tupi brothers, who fought and divided into new tribes: the Tupi and Guarani. The Guarani received yerba mate as a gift from the spirit of Tupa to reward them for their values.
After the arrival of the Spanish in Central and South America, yerba mate became a politicized drink. The colonial settlers learned that the Guarani enjoyed their health and vitality from drinking the leaves, and the beverage spread across the continent like wildfire. However, the Jesuit Mission and the Catholic Church believed the drink was "demonic," and they tried to ban it. The Jesuits failed in their mission, and Jesuits would ultimately paly a huge role in the commercialization of yerba mate or "Jesuit tea."
Today, yerba mate is grown on plantations to make it more abundantly available to those who delight in it. After all, it's global popularity is only just beginning.
What Benefits Does Yerba Mate Offer?
For centuries, yerba mate was at the center of culture for the Guarani and the Tupi. They drank it at rituals and during worship, and they believed (as legend told them) that their infusion was a divine gift. South American peoples also drank it for its medicinal value, which included its role as a stimulant thanks to the caffeine. Its benefits were so obvious that yerba mate quickly attracted colonial settlers and influenced those who visited the continent.
But what are these health benefits exactly?
Yerba mate is rich in antioxidants that include:
You'll also find:
These are nutrients found in plants that offer several different benefits for the human body including:
Another benefit is the fact that yerba mate can offer seven of the nine essential amino acids. Though, you won't find them in high concentrations.
However, it's important to know that the nutrient content found in your yerba mate depends on what you buy. Some commercial blends claim to have 90% more antioxidants than green tea, but it also depends on the quality of your yerba mate compared to the quality of your green tea leaves.
Yerba mate is a natural source of caffeine and offers 80 mg per cup, which is twice the amount you'll get in a typical cup of black tea but only half of what a cup of coffee provides.
People who drink yerba mate say that it gives you enough of a boost to feel more alert and improve your focus, but it doesn't leave you with the crash. The same properties can also help you enjoy more benefits from your daily exercise. A cup before working out could improve your performance and stop you from becoming fatigued as quickly. It can even boost your metabolism to help you burn more fat.
How Do You Make Yerba Mate?
To make yerba mate, you steep your leaves in hot water in the traditional vessel. You then use the bombilla straw to drink it because straw filters out the solids and allows you to drink the steeped tea.
One of the joys of yerba mate is that it demands ceremony when you prepare it. Because it's not a powder, it's not fully absorbed into the liquid.
However, as we've found, it can be infused and filtered in other ways, like in yerba mate infused cocktails. You can make yerba mate into a syrup or infuse it into rumor vodka directly.