What is Maté?
September 30, 2015
Maté is derived from a South American herb grown primarily in the subtropical rainforests of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. South Americans have sipped the energy-boosting brew for centuries, and over the years its popularity has spread to various points around the globe. Maté is cultivated from the leaves and young twigs of the maté tree. It is dried, shredded and aged for a year in cedar containers before becoming yerba maté.
Maté is considered to be a mild alternative to coffee, with more caffeine than most teas but without the unwanted jitters and other side effects of coffee. It is available in both full-leaf loose form and in tea bags, and can be enjoyed on its own or with a splash of steamed milk for a tasty yerba maté latte. In South America, maté was known by indigenous peoples as “the drink of the gods,” and it has earned a reputation as a “super drink” around the globe.
Due to its high concentration of tannins, yerba maté has a bitter flavor, but with very rich and complex undertones ranging from nutty to woody to smoky. Maté’s natural flavor profile is complemented by ingredients such as cocoa, nuts, peppermint, or fruit pieces. Tea drinkers can find both pure yerba maté, as well as maté tea blends using these and other add-ins.
The Guaraní Indians of the Paraná River in South America have consumed yerba maté for centuries, praising it for its healing properties. Not only was maté an important part of the Guaraní people’s history from a medicinal perspective, but from a social and community perspective, too. Traditionally, maté was consumed by partaking in a special ritual. During this ritual, participants would brew the tea and then pour it into a hollowed-out gourd. Then, they would pass the gourd in a circle, as each person sipped through a filtered straw. They would also use this special time to talk and socialize with their family, friends, and neighbors.
Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to sample maté tea, when they traveled to Paraguay searching for precious metals in the late 1500’s. The explorers enlisted the help of the local Guaraní people in their quest for gold and silver, and were amazed at how the Indian workers remained so unwearied. Noticing that the maté tea seemed to be the source of the Guaraní Indians’ energy, it was not long before the Spanish were partaking in the beverage themselves. While they may not have found success with their search for precious metals, they had discovered an equally valuable commodity– Yerba Maté, or as the Guaraní Indians called it, “the drink of the gods.”
Soon, everyone from Argentine gauchos of the Pampean plains to the effete oligarchy of South America were imbibing in the drink. Maté tea’s influence spread to Europe too, where it quickly became all the rage. Today, it is still extremely common to see local people sipping maté from the iconic gourd cups throughout South America, especially in small group settings.
It is important to note that there are some etiquette “rules” surrounding maté consumption. In South America, the same gourd and straw is used by everyone partaking in the beverage. Additionally, the person who brews and serves the maté must take the first sip before passing it along to others. This is because the maté may be the wrong temperature or strength, and it would be considered poor manners to serve badly prepared maté to guests. In fact, this initial serving of maté has a name: “maté del zonzo,” or “maté of the fool.”
After the person preparing the maté has confirmed that the flavor, temperature, and strength are good, the gourd is passed counterclockwise among the group. It is common for the hot water in the gourd to be refilled several times, allowing everyone to indulge. In fact, as more water is added, the strength of the maté tends to increase. This informal ritual is considered to be an act of bonding, friendship, and hospitality.
The Guaraní people of South America have long regarded yerba maté as a drink associated with health, vitality, and long life. Traditionally, it has been used as a stimulant, digestive aid, and tonic for depression and pain.*
Maté contains several vitamins, including B-complex, A, C, and E. It is also packed with healing antioxidants, and minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.*
Steeping is Easy
- Fill the kettle with fresh, filtered water and heat to a rolling boil.
- If using a tea bag, steep tea for 3-5 minutes. If using full-leaf tea, use one teaspoon of leave leaves and steep for 5-7 minutes. For either method, use 6 oz heated water per cup.
- Enjoy Sip by Sip.
Its rich and unique flavor profile makes yerba maté an excellent add-in for a variety of food and drink recipes. Brewed maté tea can be mixed into coconut water for a refreshing and energizing pick-me-up, or stirred into lemonade for a unique twist on the bright, summer-time beverage. It can also be used in a variety of cocktails, mocktails, spritzers and coolers.
Maté also works well as an ingredient in some baked goods, such as muffins or cookies. For a chocolatey twist, try The Republic of Tea’s Organic Double Dark Chocolate Maté Super Tea Booster. This combination of finely ground cocoa powder and roasted maté can be added to smoothies, yogurt, milk and more, supplying a nice dose of antioxidants and a low-calorie energy boost.
One of our favorite maté smoothie recipes was inspired by frozen bananas covered in chocolate and nuts. This recipe is also fully vegan!
Banana Nut Power Smoothie
- 1 frozen banana
- 2 cups almond milk
- 1 1/2 cups of ice
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 teaspoon of Agave Syrup (or sweetener of choice)
- 1 teaspoon of Double Dark Chocolate Maté Super Tea Booster®
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for 2 minutes. Makes 2 servings.
Learn more about The Republic of Tea’s Maté Latte All Night Samba tea in this video clip. Our All Night Samba Herb Tea will happily engage your senses with its deep, sweet, chocolatey infusion that is rich in character and flavor. This tea features an exotic blend of cocoa and Brazilian maté, with a small amount of natural caffeine. Rooibos, cactus flowers and almonds add depth to this deep rich brew. Also available in full-leaf loose.
We invite you to browse The Republic of Tea’s full section of maté teas and indulge in the flavorful, healthful “drink of the gods.”
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.