Yerba Mate is a tea-like beverage that comes from South America. It is consumed mostly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil where it is comparable to our love of coffee and teas. It is brewed from the leaves and stems of the yerba mate tree, which is a species of holly. The tree, scientifically named Ilex paraguarensis, is a tropical plant which grows in parts of South America where there is lots of heat, humidity and rain - in other words, in the South American rainforests.
The yerba mate tree usually grows to around 45 feet (15 metres) tall. It flowers and grows small berries between the months of October to December. The taste of the yerba mate leaf is similar to that of green tea - but with a sweeter, yet bitter taste, and a lot more nutrients.
Yerba is the common spelling in Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico. Yerba comes from the Spanish word hierba which means grass or herb. Mate comes from the Quechua term mati which means cup. Yerba mate, therefore, means the "cup herb". In Brazil, the Portuguese term is erva mate.
In South America, yerba mate is also drank amongst friends as a sign of friendship. The gourd is passed around as each friend sips from it. The host continues to fill the cup for each guest until there is no flavor left in the mate. The fact that the same bombilla, or straw, is used shows that unsanitary conditions do not matter as you are amongst friends. To be invited to share a cup is a great honour and should not be refused.
What is yerba mate? It is a form of friendship and meditation which cleanses the soul and the body and helps us to lead a healthy life.