Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is a shrub from the holly family, native to South America, whose leaves are dried and made into a tea. It is very popular in South American, where it is consumed in a similar way to coffee or black tea.
Yerba Mate is known for its effects of sustained energy, mood elevation, mental clarity and appetite control.
Mate contains xanthines, which are alkaloids in the same family as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, well-known stimulants also found in coffee and chocolate.
It is also known to contain 196 active compounds: 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and 11 polyphenols (antioxidants).
There is much debate about whether or not mate contains a unique compound called matetine, of if mate simply contains caffine. Here is an article putting forth the matetine theory, and another arguing that its just caffine.
Mate is traditionally sipped from of a hollow gourd, through a special metal straw (traditionally silver) called a bombilla (bom-BEE-ya or bom-BEE-zha in Argentinian pronunciation). “Bombilla” means, literally, “little pump” or “straw” in Spanish.
An in-depth botanical description of Yerba Mat� can be found here.
Guayaki produces a rain forest grown, organic, fair traded range of Yerba Mate teas. They also offer a drink called Java Mate, made with a Ramon nut, which taste like coffee and can be ground in a French press.
Yerba Mate is available from gourmet supermarkets and health food stores.