Latte to mate

Reader Contribution by Madeline Hyden

Need a substitute for coffee or tea? Yerba mate, or just mate, is gaining popularity in the United States and offers a naturally caffeinated alternative.

Mate, comes from the leaves of mate trees grown mainly in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. According to the Herbal Handbook by James A. Duke, Ph.D., maté leaves are picked from the trees and dried to make the tea-like beverage. Indigenous peoples in South America have used mate for social and medicinal purposes for centuries. The New Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman says that Jesuit missionaries saw South American Indians drinking tea out of calabash gourds. The missionaries called the drink “mate,” from the Spanish for “gourd” and it has remained a tradition in South American culture ever since.

Crushed mate leaves can be steeped in water and served hot or cold. Mate contains a multitude of nutrients, including vitamin C, several B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium and zinc. This makes mate a healthier, more nutritious alternative to other caffeinated beverages. Mate, especially in more concentrated forms, can taste bitter, but a little honey or lemon can help.

Guayaki, a maker of organic and fair trade mate, recently started offering “carbon subtracting” versions of their drinks. According to their Web site, Guayaki’s 16-ounces packages of their organic shade-grown mate are said to lead to the subtraction of 573 grams of carbon from the atmosphere. Guayaki says the subtracting is achieved because the rainforest in which the mate is grown absorbs 875 grams of carbon, while the carbon emissions from processing, transportation and packaging only add up to 302 grams.