Millions of people start their mornings with coffee and sugary drinks. But thanks to a growing movement that started in South America, many Americans may soon be singing the praises of Yerba mate, a different all-natural pick-me-up.
Yerba mate is a beverage that is similar to tea. It has been very popular in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil for several generations, but it is now beginning to catch on in the western world.
“I like Yerba mate because it wakes me up without the nervousness and jitters I got from drinking coffee,” says Jamie Rosen, a 39 year old hairdresser from Scottsdale, Az., who was recently the focus of a Woman’s World feature story on Yerba mate.
Rosen discovered Yerba mate “from a friend who recommended it for my health.” Clinical studies have shown that people who are sensitive to caffeine generally have very positive results with Yerba mate, made from the dried leaves of the "Ilex Paraguariensis" - an indigenous holly-like plant that grows wild in South America.
Yerba mate comes equipped with lots of essential nutrients to provide a broad range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to your body. For hundreds of years, the native people of Paraguay have gathered the plant's leaves for use in their folk remedies and as a stimulant and restorative tonic.
Yerba mate is widely regarded as an excellent appetite suppressor when taken 15 to 20 minutes before meals, which of course makes it an effective drink for shedding pounds. Yerba maté is also believed to help improve energy levels and support the immune system.
“I have more energy and I’m more alert but without the usual negative side affects that I got when I used some other energy drinks,” says Rosen. “And of course there’s the weight loss factor which has just been wonderful.
"I’ve gotten creative in preparing my Yerba mate. The directions say that it can be served hot or cold. In the summer, I place ice and a couple of scoops of the instant tea into a blender and make my own version of specialty blended coffee. I call it Blended Yerba Mate Royale.”
Yerba maté is most often used in tea bags that come in flavors including vanilla, chai, and mandarin orange. The most flavorful Yerba mate is sweetened with stevia, a natural sweetener. Instant dissolving Yerba mate is also a convenient and easy way to drink maté.
Traditionally, Yerba mate was prepared in a mug or gourd and sipped through a bombilla (a filtering straw that extracts the most nutrients by pulling the water across the leaves) nestled into the herb.
Hot (but never boiled) water is poured to the top. The water causes the leaves to swell up and the water at the top of the gourd will appear frothy and green, indicating its nutrient-rich properties.
The container can be refilled several times until the green froth is gone, which means the leaves have been depleted and it’s time to refresh the infusion. Yerba mate can also be served cold as a refreshing summer drink.