Mate: properties of a Latin infusion

Erika De Paz

There are beverages that are simply excuses. Yes, excuses for seeing each other, for having a nice chat and for sharing moments… Mate is one of them. Preparing and drinking it together is a social ceremony that brings people closer.

This infusion, made from the leaves of the Yerba Mate tree, has certain similarities with green tea. Still, some specialists say that it’s even better.

mate

Yerba mate is native from the Alto Paraná Atlantic forests. It has been enjoyed for generations among the Guaraní people. They drank it as an infusion and used it as currency.

When colonizers discovered the amazing properties of these leaves, its consumption became more widespread. However, it was the Jesuits who were responsible for taming the plant, and making it a better-known crop.

mate

Some say Argentina is the main producer of mate (where each person drinks roughly 100 liters of mate a year). Nonetheless, some data sources place Brazil in the top spot. Today, mate isn’t only consumed in those two countries, but also in places like Uruguay, Paraguay, the United States and some parts of Chile.

Let’s drink mate!

Mate is brewed by steeping the dried leaves and twigs in hot water. Never use boiling water; this would burn them and make the drink bitter.

Traditionally, mate is served in a special cup –also called mate– with a metallic strainer-straw called bombilla.

mate

In some parts of Latin America, like the Rio de la Plata region, it’s a tradition to get together and drink this infusion. This activity is called matear. The preparation has so much tradition that it’s become a sort of ritual that binds people together.

A powerful medicinal beverage

But mate isn’t just an excuse to meet friends. It’s a miracle beverage, packed with benefits.

It contains B complex vitamins:

  • B1 – important for the health of the nervous system and muscles.
  • B2 – essential for cellular respiration.

mate

Other great benefits you can enjoy when you drink mate:

  • It has wonderful antioxidant power which prevents premature aging and strengthens the immune system.
  • It’s rich in minerals like iron, sodium, potassium and magnesium.
  • Just one drink can fight fatigue and give you a rush of energy.
  • It boosts your metabolism and helps digestion.
  • Its diuretic and laxative effects are good for people with constipation.
  • It has a high chlorogenic acid concentration (way more than green tea). This compound reduces and attacks cancer cells, destroys bacteria and lowers blood pressure (among other things).

If that wasn’t enough, according to a study from the University of Illinois (United States), drinking mate actually boosts your good cholesterol (HDL). This is fantastic for your cardiovascular health. 

An alternative for coffee that doesn’t cause insomnia

Mate is an excellent option if you want to substitute your coffee. Even though it has caffeine (commonly referred to as mateine) which has a stimulating effect, this beverage doesn’t interfere with your sleep cycles. Drinking it right before bed won’t make you stay awake.

It’s also a great drink for weight loss diets because it helps calm anxiety.

mate

But even though it has so many benefits, you mustn’t drink it in exceedingly large quantities. Ingesting it continually can lead to liver and spleen inflammation. It should also be avoided if you suffer from problems in your joints, or if you suffer from acid reflux.

Enjoy the benefits of this popular Latin American plant. You can drink it in the traditional way or you can add milk or other leaves, spices and medicinal plants. You can even drink it cold or prepare with prepackaged mate bags. Choose how you prefer your mate and share a special moment with someone you love… You already have an excuse!