August 28, 2012

Yerba Mate: The Drink of the Gods (& Goddesses!). ~ Kelly Kaiana

Strength (coffee) + health benefits (tea) + euphoria (chocolate) = enough reasons to give yerba mate a try.

I admit, I have never really gotten swept up in the hype of coffee. I tried—I really did—during my three years at the university, where I would awaken at dawn to catch a train and two trams into inner-city Melbourne when the sky was still dark, and all I could see before me was the icy cloud of my own breath.

But I never liked the jitters, the rapid heartbeat, and the hours spent wide-eyed come nightfall—even if the shot of caffeine had been consumed up to 16 hours earlier. Of course, this is perhaps what a person is seeking when he draws the intoxicating brew to his lips, but for me, coffee and I simply never bonded.

For years, I developed a relationship instead with chai. I moved from the hustle and bustle of freezing Melbourne to the sunny beach town of Byron Bay where chai is pretty much a staple of the modern hippy diet. I found that chai gave me a kick; although this sweet, spicy concoction still gave me peaks and falls—bursts of momentary energy followed by valleys and then subsequent restless nights.

And then I found yerba mate.

I was not introduced to yerba mate in South America where it originated from and is still widely consumed and harvested today. I was introduced in sunny California, in a teashop in the heart San Francisco, another hippy Mecca and melting pot of travelers and eccentrics.

I was given a brew in the traditional way—in a handmade gourd filled with green mate leaves and boiling water, drank through a stainless steel straw called a bombilla. Not only did I immediately fall in love with the earthy, grassy flavor of the mate, but I was amazed at the long lasting energy, clarity and sustenance it gave me.

I was hooked.

Yerba mate had achieved somewhat of an early cult-like following in San Francisco and suddenly everywhere I turned, from health food stores to festivals, yerba mate was staring back at me. From bottles of peach, raspberry and mint iced tea, to a wide range of teabags in traditional, chocolate and fruity flavors, to loose leaf tea and to energy shots, yerba mate was headlining the tea shelves everywhere, leaving chai and green tea in the dust.

So what is it about yerba mate that is so amazing?

Yerba mate has been quoted as having the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate all in one beverage. That alone is enough to make anyone ditch their trusted beverage and give yerba mate a try, right?

For centuries, native tribes in South America have consumed yerba mate for its unique rejuvenating effects, naming yerba mate as “the drink of the Gods,” or “the green gold of the Indigos.” They have found tremendous invigoration, focus and nourishment in yerba mate. To this day it remains the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil where it is consumed six to one over coffee.

The leaves of the mate tree naturally contain 24 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, B Complex as well as Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Zinc. The leaves also contain 15 amino acids, abundant antioxidants and a host of additional compounds and trace minerals. Studies have shown that it is difficult to find any plant in any area of the world equal in nutritional value to yerba mate, which contains practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life. Amazing, hey?

And of course, who doesn’t love (or, occasionally, desperately need) some form of stimulation to get through a big day or night ahead? But keep in mind, that of the six most commonly used stimulants in the world, those being yerba mate, coffee, tea, kola nut, cocoa and guarana, that yerba mate triumphs as the most balanced of stimulants, delivering both energy and nutrients at the same time.

So, next time you have an all-nighter to pull, a houseful of kids vying for your attention, an important job interview, a marathon to run or that 6 a.m. Ashtanga class to get to on time (come on, how many Ashtangis do you know that are total coffee addicts?) try yerba mate and see for yourself the world of difference it makes.

Leave behind the café coffee culture and sit in the sunshine sipping mate from your traditional gourd. It’s just like being in the Amazon. Well, almost.


Kelly Kaiana is an aspiring writer, a raw food chef and a passionate yogi, practicing and teaching in the style of Ishta Yoga. A lover of travel and culture, this gypsy poet calls Byron Bay—a place abounding in natural beauty, spectacular sunsets and endless inspiration—home. An eternal optimist, Kelly is passionate about community, vegetarianism and all things environmentally friendly and sustainable. The spirit of bhakti inspires her creative flow, whether that be through making jewelry, creating a new yoga practice, serving beautiful, nourishing food or collecting nature’s treasures for her alter. When she is not traveling the world or making raw wedding cakes in the kitchen, you can find her strolling through farmers’ markets in the sunshine, dancing barefoot in the rain or etching spirals and dreams into the sand.


Editor: Alexandra Grace


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