September 13, 2020
Whether you thrive on the 6 am wake-up call or need it injected intravenously to get through your midday slump, coffee is at the center of most people’s days. According to the 2020 National Coffee Data Trends Report, about 70% of survey respondents said they consume coffee at least once a week. On average, self-proclaimed coffee drinkers consumed 3.1 cups a day, while even non-coffee drinkers consumed 1.9 cups a day. Despite this obsession with the beloved bean water, this isn’t the only way to get your caffeine fix. Next time you go to order a caffeinated beverage, reconsider the coffee route. Behold, yerba maté tea.
The tea on yerba maté: What is yerba maté?
Yerba maté (pronounced yer-bah mah-tay) is an herbal tea made from the ilex paraguariensis plant (suddenly yerba maté isn’t so hard to say, huh?). This plant is in the holly tree family, and its leaves and twigs can be dried and steeped in hot water to make a cozy, nutritious and caffeine-packed cup of yerba maté tea.
Traditionally, hardcore yerba lovers will use a metal straw and gourd to drink their tea. Yes, you read that correctly: a gourd. Originally, the tea would be consumed from a hollowed, dried end of a calabash squash. Serious yerba drinkers will purchase these gourds encased in metal to reuse or faux gourds made from wood. Drinking with a filtered metal straw helps strain out the steeped twigs and leaves.
Yerba maté vs. coffee
One 8-ounce cup of joe packs anywhere from 72 to 130 milligrams of caffeine. This, of course, depends on the type of coffee and how it is brewed. A cup of cold brew, which is concentrated, will contain much more caffeine than the standard percolated brew.
Yerba maté falls somewhere in the middle, containing about 85 milligrams per 8-ounce cup. Regardless of whether you’re team java or team yerba, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that individuals consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.
Yerba maté also provides some additional nutrients and benefits that are exclusive to the herbal tea. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of yerba maté tea.
Potential yerba maté health benefits
Yerba maté is often compared to green tea due to its high antioxidant content, but don’t stop sipping on matcha just yet. The two are incredibly rich in antioxidants, but are composed of very different ones. Yerba maté’s primary antioxidant is chlorogenic acid, which is also found in the green coffee bean (the bean before it’s processed and roasted).
Chlorogenic acid is a polyphenol compound also found in foods such as pears, apples, tomatoes and potatoes. Its most notable benefit to the body is its potential to reduce blood pressure. It has also been linked to improving mood and fighting infections.
Whether you’re looking to fuel your morning routine or power through a workout, yerba maté has energizing benefits that will help elevate your day. Xanthines, another plant nutrient found in both yerba maté and coffee, contributes to the tea’s stimulant effects on energy.
Thanks to methylxanthines combined with theobromine, which can relax muscles when taken in small doses, yerba maté can enhance alertness without the jitteriness. This means more focus to live your most productive life—whether that’s crushing a Netflix series in one sitting or taking your career to new heights.
Promotes a healthy lifestyle
Yerba maté may be an effective addition to a regiment of balanced nutrition and regular fitness to sustain well-rounded health. Similar to green tea, the herbal drink has been said to boost metabolic rates to aid in weight management when combined with a healthy wellness routine.
A cup of yerba a day keeps the…heart disease away? Packed with antioxidant compounds, including caffeoyl derivative and the polyphenols mentioned earlier, the drink may help protect your heart against disease. Studies have indicated that those who regularly consumed yerba maté over the course of 40 days were able to reduce bad LDL cholesterol by as much as 13.1%.
When cold and flu season hits, you’re going to want to use all the tools at your disposal to strengthen your immune system. Yerba maté may help. The tea’s anti-inflammatory properties, which stem from the natural compound saponin, as well as doses of vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and zinc, can potentially help with decongestion and toughen up your immunity. While the tea isn’t a cure for the harshest of cold- and flu-related battles, it can be a useful addition to your regular antibiotics and over-the-counter medications.
Possible side effects of drinking yerba maté
Like anything, too much of a good thing can quickly become a bad thing. Some side effects to be aware of when enjoying yerba maté regularly:
- Excessive caffeination: It is recommended that you shouldn’t consume more than 400mg of caffeine a day. Side effects associated with too much caffeine can include heightened anxiety, insomnia (paired with fatigue), digestive issues and high blood pressure.
- Pregnancy concerns: Due to its caffeine content, yerba maté may be unsafe while pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Increased risk of cancer: If consumed in excess on a regular basis, yerba maté may increase the risk of developing certain cancers, including upper respiratory and digestive tract cancers. The tea contains traces of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which is a carcinogen found in tobacco
How to make a perfect cup of yerba maté tea
If you’re ready to reap the benefits of yerba maté, you’ll want to make sure you know how to brew the perfect cup to steep in all of its nutritious perks. Here’s how to make yerba maté like a pro.
- First, put about 1 tablespoon of dry yerba maté into your gourd. Boil water to 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer to accurately measure the temperature of your water, this range is just under the boiling point. The water should begin to simmer but shouldn’t reach a full boil. If you allow the water to boil, you may risk burning the dried leaves and twigs.
- If you are using a straw with a filter, insert it into the dried yerba maté at a 45-degree angle. Pour the water slowly over the dried herbs to steep evenly. If you don’t have a straw, some hacks include using a silk tea bag for steeping or a French press with a fine filter to strain the herbs from the tea.
- Lastly, and possibly the most important step: Find a quiet place, a cozy nook or a favorite book and melt into the nourishment of yerba maté.