I knew of yerba maté but never had an opportunity to try before. With a total ignorance and due to lack of equipment, I prepared it in gongfu style. Call me, naïve. I do think that gongfu cha method works well for tisanes as it transforms the taste of some herbal teas to be more palatable.
Back to our topic. Despite the common perceptions that it is a ‘bitter’ beverage, I did not find it that way at all. Possibly due to the gongfu method. The bitterness is attributed to the high tannin levels the yerba plant entails. Indeed, research established that the younger the plants, the higher the tannin quality hence bitterness. I did not think that mate could be so exciting. Still, I have to tell you that after researching about this tea, I can easily say that this tisane is closest to ordinary tea. This is because both tea and maté contain caffeine. Therefore, maté cannot really be classified as a tisane (its definition suggests “any non-caffeinated beverage”). Neither it is a tea (as it is not made of ‘Camellia Sinensis’ plant. This makes mate quite unique and worthy of its own category.
Apart from maté, it is also known as Paraguay Tea. It is a small evergreen tree indigenous not only to Paraguay but also Brazil and Argentina like this one. Due to its high caffeine content (twice as high as black according to some resources), it is preferred by millions of South Americans over coffee as a healthier stimulating beverage. Its health benefits may include metabolism and energy-boosting and anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal properties. However, the researchers are not sufficient to be conclusive.
Another benefit is thought to be reducing the risk of cancer due to its high level of antioxidants. As per this source, laboratory studies found that the herb can protect DNA from damage in yeast cells and kill human liver cancer cells. On the other hand, according to a study published in the journal Epidemiology (1994), drinking mate regularly increased a person’s risk of respiratory or digestive cancers by 60%. This means than heavy consumption of mate can account for 20% of such cancer cases in South America.
To my surprise, this became a long post. I did not think that there would be so much to say about maté. To conclude, I’d like to talk about its taste which is a distinctive taste. I experienced faint sweetness, grassiness, acidic tartness, subtle mint and bitter honey. This website lists the most common flavours as follows: grass, mint, butter, woods, chocolate, bread, lemon, florals, smoke, nuts and fruits. Impressive stuff! Similar to tea, the level of stems and sticks in mate shapes its tasting profile. I did not expect to experience all these flavours, and reading about mate made me curious.
I am looking forward to my next cuppa. If I become a regular drinker one day, I will also order this fantastic Yerba Mate Review-Journal. Mind-blowing!
Harvest time: 2019
Leave colour: Broken leaves and stems of light green and brown
Liquor colour: Cloudy and bright yellow
Tea aroma: Vegetal and woody
Tea taste: Faint sweetness, grassiness, acidic tartness, subtle mint and bitter honey.
Steeping/brewing: I steeped around 3 gr of the leaves in 90-100°C water and for about 5 seconds in gongfu style and achieved no astringency. It allowed for another steeping.
Shelf life: Up to 2 years