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What Does Yerba Mate Taste Like?

Updated on May 21, 2007
Yerba mate comes as bunch of very small pieces, much like fannings in low-quality tea. The bits are varying colors of green, tan and brown.
Yerba mate comes as bunch of very small pieces, much like fannings in low-quality tea. The bits are varying colors of green, tan and brown.

The flavor of yerba mate

Yerba mate, a South American herb related to the holly whose leaves are drunk much like tea elsewhere, has a taste different from tea, even green tea.

Here's how I would describe the flavor of yerba mate:

  • strong and pungent, especially if prepared in the traditional fashion from the gourd and straw
  • somewhat earthy, not completely unlike green pu-erh tea
  • a slightly camphor/eucalyptus smell and taste (like Vicks)
  • bitter, but not very astringent if prepared similar to tea

Yerba mate has quite a bit of caffeine--more than tea, but less than coffee--so it can be addictive (I'm speaking from personal experience...).

It also comes in tiny broken pieces of the leaf, so in hot water, it doesn't take long to steep. I typically steep a couple of teaspoons in almost-boiling water for about 30 seconds, while I usually steep tea for at least 3 minutes.

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    • Hitoshi profile image

      Hitoshi 

      8 years ago from Tokyo

      Switched from coffee to yerba mate a while ago. No more jitters, can sleep at night, but still wakes me up - http://yerbamates.com has more details.

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      It's supposed to be full of antioxidants...but most of its health claims are made by vendors:

      http://www.iloveyerba.com/ben.htm

      http://jscms.jrn.columbia.edu/cns/2005-05-03/bensi...

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 

      11 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for the post, is there any good health effects for this tea like Green tea?

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 

      11 years ago

      That sounds delicious!

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      @ jimmy: Definitely next time. I think I've seen all of London I need to see for a while, and I've wanted to visit Edinburgh ever since I saw a documentary about it about 10 years ago. As for the haggis... I might need some Johnny to wash out the flavor! (I'm a vegetarian)

      @ Guru-C: You've done it the "real" way! Yes, I'd imagine that it's really, really bitter that way, but it must also pack quite a powerful caffeine punch. An alternative, I guess, is to try terrere, where they use fruit juice instead of hot water to steep the leaves.

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 

      11 years ago

      I have a very dear friend who is from Argentina and when we get together in her home, we partake in the mate ritual of refilling with boiling water again and again, and passing the vessel like a peacepipe that marks the pace of our conversation. Yes, the mate is quite bitter but I like it that way. My friend adds a sugar packet to each cupful of hers. In all it's a very invigorating experience.

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 

      11 years ago from Scotland

      you should have said that you were in London , you could have got on an easyjet and flew up here it only takes an hour, lol . i would have made you some scotch broth and haggis which you could have washed down with a little nip of black label.....jimmy

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      Agreed. Speaking of...you know, I was in London a couple of months ago and I tried Irn-Bru. Bitter & sweet, kind of like tonic water. Suspect it's an acquired taste!

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 

      11 years ago from Scotland

      i tried it recently but alas it wasn't to my taste, i think it is one of those products that people will either love it or hate it.....jimmy

    • livelonger profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Menayan 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      Tobacco is actually a good description of its taste! Well, "full strength", the way Argentineans drink it, is really strong. More dilute, it can taste nice.

    • vic profile image

      vic 

      11 years ago

      I had this tea in Argentina and remember it to taste something like bitter tobacco tea!! They served it in a small gourd and a straw. I had about six ounces which felt like having four shots of espresso. It would make a great morning drink.

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