Yerba mate (British spelling, Yerba-maté, Spanish yerba mate, Portuguese erva-mate), Ilex paraguariensis, is a species of holly (family Aquifoliaceae) native to subtropical South America in Argentina, eastern Paraguay, western Uruguay and southern Brazil. It was first scientifically classified by Swiss botanist Moses Bertoni, who settled in Paraguay in 1894.
The yerba mate plant is a shrub or small tree growing up to 15 meters tall. The leaves are evergreen, 7–11 cm long and 3–5.5 cm wide, with a serrated margin. The flowers are small, greenish-white, with four petals. The fruit is a red drupe 4–6 mm diameter.
Infusion and Preparation
The infusion called mate is prepared by steeping dry leaves (and twigs) of yerba mate in hot water, rather than in boiling water like black tea. Drinking mate with friends from a shared hollow gourd (also called a mate or guampa in Spanish, or cabaça or cuia in Portuguese) with a metal straw (a bombilla in Spanish, bomba or canudo in Portuguese) is a common social practice in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern Chile, eastern Bolivia and Southern Region, Brazil and also Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
In Brazil, a toasted version of mate, known as chá mate or “mate tea”, is sold in a teabag and loose form, and served, sweetened, in specialized shops, either hot or iced with fruit juice or milk. An iced, sweetened version of toasted mate is sold as an uncarbonated soft drink, with or without fruit flavoring.
Each infusion of Yerba Mate contains vitamins A, C, E B1, Niacin (B3), B5, and B Complex. The minerals Mate contains are calcium, manganese and phosphorus. Yerba Mate is also high in fatty acids, Chlorophyll, Flavonols, Polyphenols, Trace Minerals, antioxidants, Pantothenic acid and 15 Amino acids.
According to Dr. Mowry, Director of Mountainwest Institute of Herbal Sciences, one of the group of investigators from the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society concluded that Yerba Mate contains “practically all of the vitamins needed to sustain life”.