Yerba Mate or Erva Mate is a small tree native to the subtropical highlands of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. This evergreen member of the Holly family was introduced to colonising and modern civilisations by the Guarani Indians of these regions. The drink is brewed from the dried leaves and stemlets of this perennial tree. Deemed "The Drink of the Gods" by many indigenous groups in South America, and known as "the green gold of the Indios" by folks in Europe, Yerba Mate possesses a multitude of health benefits that have begun to attract the attention of American scientists and consumers.
Erva mate has a slight astringent bitter taste due to the high tannin content of the leaves. Researchers have found that leaves from younger plants possess more tannins than leaves from older, more mature trees. Additionally, products with a higher amount of sticks and stems will typically have more of a woodsy taste than pure leaf mate. As with other bitter beverages such as black coffee, beer, or tea, straight yerba mate is an acquired taste for some consumers. People are naturally drawn toward sweet, sugary foods and drinks (even though these may not be the best choice from a nutritional standpoint). While folks in South America may shun adding sweeteners or fruit flavouring, it's perfectly OK here in the states to add these flavourings just like you would with coffee or tea.
Erva mate contains several beneficial plant nutrients, including:
Xanthines: These compounds act as stimulants. They include caffeine and theobromine, which are also found in tea, coffee and chocolate.
Caffeoyl derivatives: These compounds are the main health-promoting antioxidants in the tea.
Saponins: These bitter compounds have certain anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.
Polyphenols: This is a large group of antioxidants, linked to a reduced risk of many diseases.
Interestingly, the antioxidant power of erva mate tea seems to be slightly higher than that of green tea. What's more, erva mate may contain seven out of nine essential amino acids, in addition to nearly every vitamin and mineral your body needs. However, the tea contains very small amounts of these nutrients, so it is unlikely to make a large contribution to your diet on its own.
Bottom Line: Yerba mate is an antioxidant powerhouse that contains many beneficial plant nutrients.
At 85 mg of caffeine per cup, erva mate contains less caffeine than coffee but more than a cup of tea. Therefore, just like any other caffeinated food or beverage, it has the ability to increase your energy levels and make you feel less tired. Caffeine can also affect the levels of certain signaling molecules in the brain, making it particularly beneficial for your mental focus. Several human studies observed improved alertness, short-term recall and reaction time in participants who consumed between 37.5 and 450 mg of caffeine. Additionally, those who regularly consume erva mate tea often rave that it enhances alertness like coffee, but without the jittery side effects. However, these testimonials have not yet been scientifically proven.
Bottom Line: Thanks to its caffeine content, yerba mate can help increase your energy levels and boost your mental focus.