There are some Argentine customs we wish we could incorporate into our daily routine—midnight steak dinners followed by five hours of dancing? If only. But yerba mate, the national drink of Argentina, is something we can definitely get on board with. Not quite coffee and not quite tea, yerba mate is trending in a major way in the U.S. right now. We got the lowdown from nutritionist Keri Glassman.
So, what’s yerba mate? It’s a drink derived from an evergreen plant that’s closely related to holly. Traditionally, the dried leaves and twigs of the plant are infused inside a hollow gourd, and hot (but not boiling) water is added. In social settings, it’s sipped through a metal straw, then refilled and passed to the next person. In the U.S., it’s more commonly bottled or steeped like tea.
And it has caffeine in it? Yep. A cup of yerba mate has about 73 milligrams of caffeine (for context, a cup of coffee has about 95 milligrams of caffeine, while green tea contains about 35 milligrams).
What are the benefits? “You don’t have the quick caffeine high and then drop like you do with coffee,” Glassman tells us. “None of that heart-racing feeling.” (Phew.) Like green tea, yerba mate also contains l-theanine, an amino acid that may alleviate anxiety and improve sleep quality. Yerba mate also has more polyphenols (anti-inflammatory antioxidants) than green tea and contains vitamin C to help stimulate collagen, as well as heart-healthy antioxidants that help dilate blood vessels, Glassman says.
What does it taste like? Although yerba mate is similar in color to green tea, the flavor is surprisingly neutral—unlike green tea, which we think often tastes bitter if it’s brewed improperly. We easily could see ourselves switching over from tea to mate…or even subbing it for our usual morning coffee.
Where can I buy it? Amazon or your local health food store is your best bet. It’s available in tea bags, but don’t be afraid of trying the loose leaves. Just fill up a tea ball, steep it in hot (but not boiling) water for three minutes and it’s ready to go.