Just as coffee is the most popular beverage in the US and black tea is the drink of choice in the UK, yerba mate is the hot beverage that you’ll see most frequently in South America. Thanks to its nutritious health profile and respectable caffeine content, it’s becoming more and more popular worldwide.
There are many different ways to harvest, dry, and package yerba mate that influence the flavor and consistency, but we’ve researched them all and created a list of our favorites.
In our list of the 7 best yerba mate brands, there are many traditional brands as well as a few more modern approaches to the tea.
So which yerba mate brands are the best? Our favorite yerba mate brands combine great flavor with responsible production practices, reasonable pricing, and ease of use. If you’re new to tea, you may prefer a non-traditional blend with added flavors and fewer stems. If you’re a fan of green tea, you may enjoy a traditional yerba mate brew.
In this article, we’ll outline exactly why we’ve chosen each of these teas to represent the best of yerba mate, as well as explain a little bit more about why you should be incorporating this tea into your daily life habits.
What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is commonly compared to green tea. In the strictest sense of the definition, it is an herbal tea, but it is not a green or even a black tea. It’s a caffeinated beverage, much like coffee or tea, but it is its own drink made from an herb.
The yerba mate herb is native to South America, where it’s incredibly popular as a hot beverage, served considerably more frequently than coffee. It’s thought to be a gift from the gods to enhance stamina, which is a priority from a historical nomadic, warrior society.
The most fascinating aspect of yerba mate is how it is grown. The seeds apparently only germinate after being digested by very specific native birds. This, as you can imagine, makes commercial cultivation more difficult and therefore the herb more precious.
The 7 Best Yerba Mate Brands
Defining what makes a great yerba mate is often more about personal tastes and preferences than the quality of the product. Traditional yerba mate varies depending on the region where it is grown and enjoyed.
Our list of favorites is biased towards the traditional flavors, but we’ve also included some delicious, high quality and respectable brands that lean towards a market of less practiced yerba mate drinkers.
Whether you’re searching for your first cup of yerba mate or your 500th, you’re sure to find something to suit your preferences within our list of the 7 best yerba mate brands.
|Rank||Yerba Mate Brand||Best Feature|
|1.||Cruz de Malta||Unsmoked and with stems for a more neutral, woody flavor|
|2.||Rosamente||Lightly smoked for added flavor|
|3.||Guayaki||Organic, packaged in tea bags|
|4.||Taragui||Most popular brand for local, native yerba mate drinkers|
|6.||Kiss Me Organics||Variety of flavors|
|7.||Ecoteas||No stems, no dust, easy to brew|
1. Yerba Mate Cruz De Malta
This particular package is made “elaborada con palos,” meaning the blend is made with the stems from the leaves, which is more in keeping with tradition.
This brand makes a “suave” blend, which is a higher concentration of stems. This cuts down on the powder and helps keep the mate straw, or bombilla, from getting clogged in traditional preparation methods.
If you want to try before you buy 2 pounds, this brand also offers a ½ kilo option.
- “Sin capas plasticas” means the packaging is made without plastic
- Made in Argentina, con palos (suave)
- Leaves are dried using sun, gas heat and wood heat, but it is not smoked
Biggest Drawback: “Con palos” can be unappealing to many people, giving the impression that wood is used as a filler and therefore is lower quality. It is a traditional method of preparing yerba mate, however, so it doesn’t impact quality, but it will build in a woody note to the flavor.
2. Yerba Mate Rosamonte
Rosamonte is a family business dating back to 1966 which began with a dedication to yerba mate.
Because of the well-earned success, the plantation was able to grow into multiple other markets, a great testament to a well-run, high-quality business that you can count on to keep producing the tea you love.
- Con palos, but with fewer stems than most other brands, and a finer grind
- Made in Argentina
- Dried and slightly toasted for flavor enhancement that is not as strong as a fully smoked blend
Biggest Drawback: There is quite a bit of dust involved in many yerba mate blends, particularly this one. The grind is a bit finer and there are fewer stems, which is a positive factor for many mate drinkers, but it can clog a strainer if you’re not sure how to prepare it properly to remove the dust. We recommend searching YouTube for the best method. If you can get it right once, the rest will come easily.
3. Guayaki Yerba Mate – Traditional Bags
Guayaki is committed to what they call “Market Driven Regeneration,” which means that the consumer demand for pristine quality yerba mate allows them to offer a living wage to local farmers.
The farmers pass along this sustainability by encouraging biodiversity in their forests.
- Organic and sustainably farmed
- Packaged in tea bags for ease of use
- Very lightly smoked for added flavor that is not overwhelming
Biggest Drawback: The fact that this yerba mate comes in bags is both one of the best features and one of the most confusing for traditional or practiced yerba mate drinkers. Yerba mate is almost always sold in loose-leaf form, so it is easy to purchase this product by accident if you’re not reading the packaging carefully.
4. Taragui Yerba Mate Con Palo
Because most yerba mate comes from South America, it can be difficult for non-Spanish speaking people to understand the benefits and preparation methods, which are often in Spanish.
Taragui does a good job with their English language marketing and sales information, explaining the health benefits and caffeine content well and including English language preparation instructions on the packaging.
- According to Yerba Mate distributors, this is the most popular worldwide brand and the leading brand in Argentina itself
- Made in Argentina
- Strategic drying and aging process leads to most well-developed flavors
Biggest Drawback: When a package states “con palos” it doesn’t indicate what percentage of stems are included. Some yerba mate drinkers prefer more stems because it is easier to make in a French press, whereas others prefer fewer stems, like this Taragui blend, because it has a more traditional flavor, though it does take more practice to work with the dusty nature of the fine grind.
5. Canarias Yerba Mate
Most of the mates on this list are from Argentina, but Canarias is harvested in southern Brazil.
Even though the plant is the same, the flavor is brighter and fruitier than Argentinian blends, less bitter, and pleasantly offset by the slightly smoky flavor from the drying process.
- Sin palo, meaning there are no stems in this blend, just leaves
- Made in Brazil, the most popular drink in Uruguay
- High polvo content (dust), creating a rich, smooth almost chocolate flavor
Biggest Drawback: We’ve talked about dusty yerba mate previously, and this blend has no stems so it’s very dusty. To the degree where it’s highly recommended you purchase the traditional bombilla with a fine grain filter to prevent graininess to your drink.
6. Organic Yerba Mate Tea Bags – Variety Pack
Kiss Me Organics is an American company that works closely with organic, sustainable farms around the world to produce high quality, “superfood” supplements to enhance human performance.
While we love a local company, as you can tell by the other brands that have made our favorites list, this brand feels more familiar and understandable to a North American audience.
- Organic, con palos
- Made in Brazil
- 4 unique flavor varieties in easy to use tea bags
Biggest Drawback: These tea bags are by far the least traditional yerba mate to make our top 7 favorites, but perhaps because of this, they make a fantastic place to start acquiring the taste for this healthy, caffeinated hot beverage.
7. Ecoteas – Organic Unsmoked Yerba Mate Tea
Ecoteas is another American owned company, operating with the goal of creating a business that supports consumer health while it restores balance to the earth and the communities that grow and harvest the yerba mate plants.
- Organic and unsmoked for safety and quality
- Made in partnership with an Argentine university and Fair Trade development fund
- With stems and dust-free, making these carefully sifted leaves easy to brew in a French press or with a traditional bombilla
Biggest Drawback: The company clearly markets their yerba mate as “loose leaf” and “no dust” so many people are slightly surprised by the powdery texture of the product. There is a difference between a fine grain yerba mate that is consistently powdery and the dust that is a result of an inconsistent blend of ground leaves with the stems.
If you’re a traditional yerba mate drinker, this might be unappealing to you. If, on the other hand, you’re a matcha green tea lover, this brand will feel more comfortable for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Yerba Mate
Yerba mate pronunciation?
Yerba mate is native to South America so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s derived from Spanish. English speakers will typically pronounce it as yer-bah ma-tay (phonetic spelling).
In Spanish, depending on the dialect, there may be a slight variation on the first syllable. Some will pronounce it more like cher-bah, or possible jer-bah, but if you get relatively close, you will be understood. As long as you say ma-tay rather than m-eight.
Yerba mate vs coffee?
Yerba mate and coffee are both caffeinated beverages usually consumed hot, but that is where their similarities end.
Coffee has about 85 mg of caffeine in a 5-ounce cup and yerba mate comes in slightly lower on the scale with only about 78 mg of caffeine.
Yerba mate has other plant-based compounds that are known to be quite healthy, such as saponins, which are anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, and even chlorophyll.
Coffee also has plenty of antioxidants, as well as a variety of essential nutrients such as vitamins B2, B3, and B5.
How to make yerba mate?
Yerba mate is often sold either as ground leaves or in a bag like a more traditional tea. If you’ve got a tea bag, you can follow the directions on the box but essentially you will steep it in hot water as an otherwise normal pot of tea.
If you’ve got a loose-leaf blend, you may want to consider using a French press or tea ball. For most brands, you will need approximately 4 tablespoons of yerba mate per 12 cup pot. Steep for approximately 5 minutes in hot, not boiling water, and strain to serve.
Some people suggest adding lukewarm water to your leaves before the hot water to protect the tea from shock, decreasing the bitter edge. This is a personal experience, however, though you always want to be sure to keep your water at a maximum of 170F.
You may want to add some cream or sugar if that is to your taste.
What does yerba mate taste like?
Most people find that yerba mate is an acquired taste, mainly because it is rather bitter. If you’re already accustomed to the bitter flavor of many plant-based foods, you may find it more appealing at first. Some versions are smoked, which dramatically influences the taste, as you would expect.
The flavor is very earthy and, as mentioned, has a bitter edge to it. Using a bit of cream in your tea can temper this bitterness. Some people compare it to a strong tasting green tea, but it is much woodier, especially if you try a traditional blend with the stems.
Similar to red wine, yerba mate has tannins that can leave an astringent taste or feel in your mouth. Many people liken the aroma to eucalyptus leaves, which can also influence the taste of the tea.
Is yerba mate healthy?
Yerba mate is thought of as a healthy beverage by many different circles but, like all good things, there can be downsides as well.
Yerba mate is a safe stimulant that has been shown to protect your heart, boost your brainpower, improve your digestion, and ease your inflammatory response, reducing your risk of almost all diseases.
On the other hand, depending on how the yerba mate is grown, processed, stored, and prepared, it may contain compounds similar to the cancer-causing agents in tobacco or burnt food. It may also have heavy metal levels beyond what is considered safe.
Before you choose a yerba mate brand, make sure you consider all the potential risks and benefits.
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