For our honeymoon a few years back, my husband and I went to Chile for a month. We traveled up and down the narrow country, and everywhere we went, workers were sipping a pungent tea known as Yerba Mate. While there is a traditional tea ceremony for mate, it has become an everyday beverage for many, loved for its potent caffeine. We of course had the chance to sample this popular tea on more than one occasion. Always packed with leaves we both found the drink to be … horrible. Pungent in every way, it was hard to stand this potent tea without an overwhelming dose of sugar (of which the Chileans seem to eat by the teaspoonful). Since we both prefer our tea black, this beverage was written off from our teatime rituals.
Now back in the US, I couldn’t help but notice the new mate tea hitting my grocer’s shelves. How could such a strong tea be popular among our taste-sensitive society? To my surprise, this brand, Guayaki, holds two new twists. The first, which I discovered on my first taste test (I couldn’t help it, I had to know!), was that these teas are packaged in a much milder form. In the normalized tea bags, the dose of mate is much more manageable than a leaf packed gourd. The second is the nutritional properties that they are now able to boast.
With all of the buzz about antioxidants, I am actually a bit surprised that mate didn’t hit the states sooner. A study in 2005 found that mate appears to have higher levels of antioxidants than the renowned green tea! As noted on the Guayaki website, Each infusion of yerba mate contains:
- Vitamins: A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, B Complex
- Minerals: Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc
- Additional Compounds: Carotene, Fatty Acids, Chlorophyll, Flavonols, Polyphenols, Inositol, Trace Minerals, Antioxidants, Tannins, Pantothenic Acid and 15 Amino Acids.
Still, I was a bit concerned about the caffeine. I tend to be quite sensitive to the stuff, and found myself bouncing off the walls with just a half serving of Chilean mate. Luckily, the tea bags seem to be much more tame. I armed myself with a few of the lower dosage bags, which were actually on par with the caffeine in green tea or lower:
Organic Mate Chocolatte
As I poured the boiling water onto the tea bag, I could just barely detect the mellow matte scent, but no spices as of yet. I took a sip straight to get a baseline flavor and was greeted with a mild sweetness, a relatively mellow tea, and the faintest hint of cocoa and spices. Really, I was expecting a matte slap in the face, so I was pleasantly surprised. While mate still isn’t my top flavor pick, it melded nicely in this blend.
Following the instructions, I added a bit of almond milk (which I discovered can curdle a bit), but opted to skip the extra sweetener. While still good, I actually liked it better without milk added. Though I am not a latte drinker, and have had some less than stellar experiences with mate, this tea gets the thumbs up.
Ingredients: Organic Guayakí Yerba Mate, organic cocoa, organic nutmeg, organic cinnamon, organic stevia, and organic clove.
Organic Magical Mint Mate
Though peppermint was second on the ingredient list, the scent of spearmint (third on the list) quickly presented itself as the boiling water hit my tea bag. The immediate sweetness surprised me a bit, even though I had read stevia on the label prior. However, it was really only an occasional sweetness that sort of piped up, rather than blending with the other flavors. Overall, it was a fair tea, with bold flavors each chiming in on different occasions, speaking up and then settling down to let the next flavor have a turn in the spotlight. Though there are only four ingredients, they didn’t really commingle, but were decently complimentary. The stevia and cool mint flavors definitely tempered the natural mate taste, and left a refreshing feeling on my tongue.
I am still partial to the pure mint experience from Stash, but this one isn’t bad either. I certainly wouldn’t turn it down if offered, but found a bit more intrigue in the chocolatte.
Ingredients: Organic Guayakí Yerba Mate, organic peppermint, organic spearmint and organic stevia.
Organic Traditional Yerba Mate
Though not as pungent as the traditional gourd, the bitter, dirty mate flavor came shining through in this tea bag. Really, what did I expect? Mate is mate. Since you can buy a big pack of loose-leaf mate if you really love the flavor and want a big caffeine jolt, I would go for that over tea bags. Nonetheless, while the mint and chocolate variations added just enough to nicely mute and compliment the natural mate “essence,” I have confirmed that I am still not a fan of yerba mate. Though slightly inferior nutrition-wise, I think I will stick to green tea for my antioxidant boost.
Ingredients: Organic Rainforest Grown Yerba Mate
So would I buy this tea? At $6.95 per package, it far outstrips my $2.50 budget cap on 16 to 20 count tea bags. However, if someone were nice enough to buy me some of the Chocolatte Matte, and perhaps serve up the Magical Mint on occasion, far be it from me to turn it down. As for the Traditional Yerba Mate, I will continue to avoid the gourd passing ceremonies.
Where to Purchase: I have seen this stuff in the natural food section of my local grocer, and it can surely be found in many natural food stores. You can also purchase directly from Guayaki, or via Amazon.