What is Yerba Mate?
I first heard of Yerba Mate from a friend of mine who visited Paraguay, where everyone from university students to the elderly to children have been known to sip it (this is the brand she saw people drink the most often and is consequently what I now drink). Yerba Mate is made from the leaves of a South American holly tree that grows in the rainforest. It has approximately the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (around 75 mg) but the way the body processes it is very different. While it has energizing properties, Yerba Mate doesn’t result in the same jittery quality caffeine sometimes does. People tend to drink it all day long, not only in the morning, and it’s been said to actually aid in sleep. In Central and South American cultures people often drink from traditional gourds, but I found a travel gourd that is super cute and works just as well (and you won’t get strange looks from your coworkers when you show up to work with a hollowed-out coconut). You suck Yerba Mate through a metal straw with a filter (called a bombilla) but you can also run it through a coffee machine or use a tea ball or French press and get basically the same effects.
Energy without the Jitters
As soon as I switched from coffee to Yerba Mate I noticed an immediate difference in my ability to concentrate. Besides that, I didn’t have the anxiety I sometimes get from coffee. I’m not going to lie, the taste is very different—closer to a very strong, almost oaky, black tea—but I drink coffee for the pick-me-up, not the flavor. On the first day that I switched, I opened a very long, tedious document I was to copyedit. It usually takes me well into my second cup of coffee to get into the flow with this type of work, but before I had finished one gourd of Mate, I was in the zone. I drank two gourds full over 4 hours and easily completed my assignment. I didn’t drink any more Mate that day because I didn’t need it.
I’ve never been the type to drink coffee after noon, but even still, I was finding it difficult to turn off my brain at night to sleep. Once I switched to Yerba Mate I had no problems sleeping—in fact, these days I’m often able to sleep when my baby takes his nap—something I always try to do but find difficult. In addition, I’ve begun having vivid, cinematic dreams, both during naps and at night. I’m also able to remember these dreams after I wake up, which is unusual for me.
Besides simply being a great, energizing drink, Yerba Mate contains several antioxidants, 24 vitamins and minerals, and 15 amino acids. Because it is lower in tannins, it is not as acidic as coffee, so people with stomach issues might find it easier to tolerate.
It’s been about 6 weeks and I’m still extremely happy with my switch to Yerba Mate. I still drink the occasional cup of coffee just for the ritual of it—plus I like to work in coffee shops and I have to buy something to “rent” my table—but these days I choose decaf instead of regular.