I was recently introduced to mate (“mah-tay”), a tea-like drink that originates from South America. The beverage is made from the naturally caffeinated leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant (Ilex paraguariensis). Mate is said to have the “strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate” combined.
Some of the benefits of yerba mate include*:
- Abundance of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids
- Energy booster
- Rich in antioxidants
- Digestive health
- Cardiovascular health
- Weight control
Sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, there is insufficient scientific evidence for most of these claims and many possible health risks [WebMD]. In fact, studies have shown that large consumption of mate has lead to increased risk of certain types of cancer.
My thoughts on yerba mate:
Unlike other health drinks on the market, this one actually tastes good. I picked up a bottle of Guayaki Yerba Mate at the grocery store the other day, and it tasted just like mint iced tea. (FYI, Guayaki sells non-carbonated mate in glass bottles and carbonated mate in aluminum cans.) The 16 fl oz bottle contained 140 mg of caffeine in total, which is less than the equivalent amount in coffee. (According to the USDA, one 8 fl oz cup of coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine.) I only drank half of the bottle and didn’t really feel a difference, but I’m also quite insensitive to caffeine. On the contrary, my friend feels incredibly hyper whenever she drinks mate.
Overall, mate is safe to drink in moderation. I’ll be buying a bottle every once in a while, especially when I want a light pick-me-up, but it definitely won’t be a pantry staple.
Have you tried yerba mate? What are your thoughts?