What Is Yerba Mate? Exploring the Ecuadorian Drink of Friendship

By Ronald Taylor

What Is Yerba Mate? Exploring the Ecuadorian Drink of Friendship

You may have seen yerba mate (pronounced “yur-bah mah-tay”) popping up in energy drinks, lattes, or as loose leaf tea in your favorite shop. Although less well-known than green or black tea, in recent years yerba mate has been lauded as a superfood for having “the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate.” So what is yerba mate? And what are the benefits of yerba mate? TEA.L is here with a handy guide to this delicious South American beverage and how it is sure to delight your skin, your health, and your taste buds. 

Origins & History 

Native to the central and southern regions of South America, yerba mate is an herbal tea derived from the Ilex paraguariensis plant, which is a species of holly. Although not directly related to the tea plant, yerba mate is prepared the same way, by drying out the leaves and then steeping them in hot water. In traditional Ecuadorian culture, yerba mate was served in a gourd with a metal straw and meant to be shared among friends. Unlike other South American caffeinated products such as coffee, yerba mate was not well-known outside of the region for many years. However, today yerba mate enjoys worldwide popularity and is a key ingredient in many health drinks. 


Yerba mate is often described by tea aficionados as an “acquired taste.” Because of its high tannin content, yerba mate tea is bitter, earthy, and less acidic than coffee. Some have described the taste as “grassy.” Yerba mate is usually consumed without adding any sugar or cream, so it maintains its lightness. The amount of time you brew yerba mate can also affect the flavor. Yerba mate tea is often compared to guayusa in terms of its flavor profile. 

Caffeine Content of Mate 

Yerba mate has a moderate amount of caffeine, boasting less caffeine than coffee but more than black tea. As with most caffeinated beverages, yerba mate can make you feel more alert and improve mental focus. In addition to caffeine, yerba mate contains the stimulants theobromine (the euphoria-inducing chemical found in chocolate) and theophylline.  As a result, yerba mate gives a boost of natural energy without causing the same jitters that coffee does. The caffeine content of yerba mate has made it a popular ingredient in health-conscious energy drinks. 

Antioxidants in Mate 

Like most tea and herbal tea products, yerba mate is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are plant-based compounds that fight against free radicals which cause damage to skin cells. Free radicals have been correlated to numerous health problems, such as heart disease and cancer, so incorporating antioxidants into your diet is essential for maintaining good health. Yerba mate contains antioxidants such as caffeoyl derivatives and polyphenols, which have been associated with benefits ranging from a reduced risk of disease to anti-aging effects on the skin. Furthermore, yerba mate is believed to have higher antioxidant properties than green tea. 

Benefits of Mate 

In addition to its traditional history as a social beverage, yerba mate tea was also used to improve health. Like most other tea products, yerba mate can be consumed or applied topically in order to reap these benefits. Here are a few of the potential health benefits of yerba mate that have been discovered in recent years. Note that we do not endorse any medical claims and specific questions on an individual's health should be directed to a physician. 

Weight Loss 

A study conducted on mice concluded that yerba mate can aid in reducing appetite and boosting metabolism, which in turn can cause weight loss. Additional research on humans has shown that yerba mate tea can also burn more stored fat for energy, and aid in losing belly fat. Similarly, yerba mate has been shown to aid in burning more fat during exercise, thus improving sports performance. Replacing sugary beverages with yerba mate (which has about 5 calories) can also lead to lower caloric intake and thus improve weight loss outcomes.  

Boosted immune system  

In addition to antioxidants, yerba mate contains vitamins and minerals including saponins, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc, which have been linked to stronger immune systems and anti-inflammatory properties. One study also showed that yerba mate extract can fight effectively against the E. coli bacteria, while another indicated that the dicaffeoylquinic acids in yerba mate might have anticancer properties. 

Skin protection 

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that improve overall body health can also be beneficial the skin by slowing the aging process and reducing redness. Research has also shown that yerba mate may also prevent the growth of the fungus Malassezia furfur, which can cause a variety of conditions such as dry skin, dandruff, and rashes.  

With so many health and beauty benefits, yerba mate is becoming a popular ingredient in skin care products. TEA.L’s hydrating eye cream is infused with yerba mate, drawing upon its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. View the full range of TEA.L products, which are deeply infused with loose leaf tea and high quality oils, to determine which is right for you.