What is Yerba Mate ?

By Veronica Gomez, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

In my experience as a UC Davis student, I have learned that the quarter is getting tough when cans of yerba mate begin to occupy my desk space. As Guayaki’s ‘Lemon Elation’ becomes the only option in the MU Market refrigerators, I know my fellow Aggies are also fueling for long nights of study.

As a nutrition major, I consider myself to have a pretty broad awareness of types of foods and drinks..but what is yerba mate, anyway?

Brief Intro to Yerba Mate

The brand Guayaki is all too familiar to American college students with its bright yellow surface and centered wreath logo. This yerba mate company actually originated by a food science major from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Alex Pryor. Alex is a proud Argentinian who made it his mission to share the traditional energizing tea that is yerba mate. Yerba Mate refers to the leaves of Ilex Paraguariensis,  a tree native to South and Central American countries like Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil. The Guarani, Paraguay’s indigenous population, were the first to cultivate yerba mate for consumption. The expansion of yerba mate is linked to complex South and Central American history, however, the cultural importance and method of consumption remains widely alike and prevalent in these countries.

Yerba Mate is traditionally consumed in a naturally crafted gourd with a bombillo, a special straw made to filter out the leaves as you sip. In Argentina, sharing the filled gourd among friends has become a ritual embodying friendship and community

Is Yerba Mate Safe?

            Like with all caffeinated products, yerba mate drinks are generally safe with moderate intake. Many sources misleadingly state that yerba mate can be a health risk, however, this is only in excess consumption, and is dependent on other lifestyle factors such as smoking, as well as the preparation of the drink (consistently using very hot water ).

So, as we are nearing the end of the quarter, consider your caffeine intake, remember to practice self-care, and take some time to explore the culture of your favorite foods and drinks.

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