I have to be completely honest and admit that I did not and could not drink yerba mate for the first seven years I was in the tea business.  Unlike my brother, who liked it from the very first sip, I could simply not wrap my palate around that smokey, earthy bitterness.

I tried my fair share of brands, varieties, and flavors – roasted and unroasted, with herbs and without herbs, scented, flavored, latte’d, and everything in between.  But the dense, thick, herbaceous, and intense flavor of yerba mate was something I thought I would never really like.

I knew it was good for me though – all my research pointed to a beverage unlike any other for its medicinal benefits.  I didn’t know quite what it was about the flavor profile I didn’t like, but I still managed to sell it, espouse its benefits, sample it, and give it away to all my friends without indulging myself.

Then one day, a bearded gentleman entered my shop clutching a big green foil bag close to his chest.  It was a brand of yerba mate from a company called Mate Factor.  It was bright green, organic, and the freshest yerba mate I had ever smelled.  He wanted me to make us some, pointing out that my yerba was way too refined, somewhat stale, and smoke dried.

Needless to say, I was blown away by the smoothness of Mate Factor’s yerba.  It was flavorful, clean, and very green, lacking the smokey harshness of other yerbas I had tried.  Finally, after almost seven years, I had stumbled upon a yerba mate that worked for my palate.

So I needed to find out why this particular yerba tasted so different from all the rest I had sampled over the years.  As it turns out, Mate Factor’s yerba is not smoke dried – and believe it or not, this makes ALL the difference (at least it did to me).  In my opinion, smoke drying the leaves adds nothing to the taste profile of yerba (unlike Lapsang – which I truly love as well).

I now drink copious amounts of yerba mate and I am more than feeling the health benefits of this three-year addiction.  The smoke-dried versions – which pretty much make up all of the other varieties – have a much harsher, more astringent taste and are definitely harder to acquire a palate for.  The freshness of a regular air-dried yerba mate makes for a tantalizing and somewhat intoxicating beverage.  In South America, they call it the “liquid vegetable”.  Its nutritional profile is unmatched by any other tea-like beverage, packing 15 essential amino acids and tons of nutrients.  Yerba mate is also high in antioxidants, and its generous supply of vitamins and minerals (including chlorophyll, Vitamins A, B, C, and E, magnesium, potassium, iron, pantothenic acid, and much more) make a cup of yerba mate an excellent immune-system booster.

When I assist women and men who come into our stores looking for “diet” and “weight loss” teas, I always recommend yerba – because it is also regarded as one of nature’s weight-loss secrets by speeding up the metabolism, curbing the appetite, and helping the body to release excess calories rather than storing them as fat.  It has been said that yerba mate has enough nutrients, vitamins, and amino acids that if one were to consume nothing but mate (say if you were stranded on a deserted island with no food), you would live indefinitely.  Yes, you would be skinny as a rake, but you would survive.

And finally, let’s talk about the energy boost.  Of course, I drink lots of tea, the odd espresso, and various other energy boosters that are available off the shelf.  But yerba is by far the best.  The metabolism boost takes about 10-15 minutes to kick in after you drink it, but it lasts for hours – much longer than coffee, but without the jitters and that awful “crash” your body experiences when the caffeine buzz is gone.  For the caffeine addict, it makes the transition from burnt coffee beans to the world of tea much more graceful.

In our shops, yerba mate is the fastest-growing segment on the tea wall, beating out green tea and rooibos.
If you are going to indulge for the first time, take my advice as a convert and start with some of Mate Factor’s unsmoked green yerba mate.  It’s organic and the quality is unmatched.  Your body will thank you in more ways than you can imagine.

Happy sipping.

Images: Main & Second: juanpol :: First: joguldi :: Third: blmurch