yerba maté (mate)

Pronunciation: [YER-bah MAH-tay]

The maté is a South American holly-family tree grown primarily in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay and widely cultivated to make a tealike drink called yerba maté. The leaves and young twigs of this tree are dried, shredded, then typically aged for 1 year in cedar containers before being marketed as yerba maté loose-leaf tea, tea bags or as a bottled drink. South Americans have been sipping this energy-boosting brew for centuries and its popularity has now spread to points around the globe. The traditional South American way to consume yerba maté is to brew it in a hollow gourd (also called maté in Spanish) and share it communally by drinking it through a bombilla, a special metal straw that strains out the leaves. Whether brewed in a gourd or not, it's important to use hot, not boiling, water to steep this "tea." Yerba maté has an earthy, herbal flavor that many have to sweeten to make it potable. Most bottled-drink versions are pre-sweetened. Gram for gram, yerba maté has the same amount of caffeine as coffee, though the energy effect is more sustainable than that of coffee. Yerba maté can be found in Latin markets, natural food stores and many supermarkets. It's also known as Brazilian tea, Paraguay tea and simply maté.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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