Yerba mate tea is a popular beverage consumed in most South American countries in place of regular coffee and tea. Brewed from the leaves and twigs of a native plant, Ilex paraguariensis, belonging to the holly family, this herbal tea contains appreciable amounts of caffeine, which provides a stimulating effect similar to coffee.
The indigenous people of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and parts of Chile had been using this invigorating tea long before Europeans made their way to the continent. However, it is considered the ‘drink of the gods’ not just for the energy boost caffeine provides, but for various health benefits as well.
Here are some excellent reasons to drink this tea:
- A great energy-boosting morning drink
This herbal tea is especially great as a morning pick-me-up because it provides a smooth energy boost, without causing any restlessness or agitation usually associated with coffee due to the theobromine content, the phytochemical behind the feel-good effect of chocolate. Consequently, the energy boost provided by Yerba mate tea is more balanced and gentle.
- Increases mental clarity and cognitive function
Our brain can get foggy and fatigued with all sorts of sensory stimulations bombarding it. Drinking a cup of Yerba Mate tea any time of the day can enhance mental acuity by improving focus and concentration and increasing memory.
- Improves mood
Many users of Yerba mate tea find that it is superior to coffee because the mood enhancement lasts longer, and it is not followed by a ‘crash’ afterward. The herbal tea stimulates the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure centers of the brain.
- Excellent nutritional profile
This herbal tea has an impressive nutritional profile of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Apart from vitamins A, C, and E, Yerba mate tea contains several B-complex vitamins. It is an excellent source of niacin (B3), a vitamin known to lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and protect against atherosclerosis.
- Great for digestive health
Yerba mate tea can take care of almost all the common problems associated with the gastrointestinal system. It acts as a digestive aid and is commonly used as a remedy for indigestion and diarrhea. It is found to have antibacterial and antiparasitic effects against E.coli and intestinal worms, while regular use of the tea can improve the regularity of bowel movements.
- Helps with weight loss
Drinking this herbal tea has been found to reduce appetite. Slowing of digestion and delayed gastric emptying may be responsible for this effect. The phenolic acids and flavonoids in the tea inhibit pancreatic lipase, thus reducing fat metabolism and absorption of dietary fats.
- Enhances cardiovascular health
The heart-protective effect of this herbal tea comes from different mechanisms. The strong antioxidant effect of the phytochemicals in the tea may protect the heart and blood vessels against oxidative damage. They may also prevent the peroxidation of lipids. Oxidized lipid molecules tend to accumulate on the arterial walls, especially in damaged areas, forming atherosclerotic plaques.
- Increases immunity
It is an accepted belief among Yerba mate tea drinkers that it increases resistance to diseases, especially seasonal infections like colds and flu. Theophylline, in particular, can ease the chest congestion and wheeze associated with bronchitis and asthma. An improvement in overall health, thanks to the excellent nutritional and antioxidant profile of the tea, can also naturally enhance disease resistance.
Preparing the Tea
Traditional preparation involved infusing dry leaves in hot water. A vessel made from dried calabash gourd would be filled up to three-quarters with the leaves, and then hot water (160°F to 170°F) was poured into it. A silver straw was used for drinking the tea directly from the vessel.
The method of preparing the tea mostly remains the same even today, and it is a widespread social custom among natives. One person prepares the tea for a group of people, and after a few mouthfuls, the drink is shared by passing the mate and the straw to the next person. Powdered dry leaves are now available in tea bags, which makes brewing Yerba mate tea much easier, but loose leaf is favored.
To make the tea from commercially available Yerba mate loose tea, add several spoonfuls of it to the brewing vessel, and pour hot water. Boiling water shouldn’t be used as it makes the tea very bitter. Let the infusion rest for 5 minutes before drinking the tea.