Yerba mate, known simply as mate in Argentina, is a hot drink made from the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant, dried, and steeped in water to make a tea. While it may take a few sips to get used to the distinctive bitter taste of the tea, it’s worth persevering – if only to take advantage of the reputed health benefits. While there is not as much scientific research into mate as into coffee or black tea, there is literature out there that points to possible antioxidant, anti-osteoporosis and cardio-protective effects from sipping Argentina’s most popular infusion – including a recent study into mate lowering the risk of atherosclerosis. In this 2013 study from Taishan Medical University, China the scientists suggest mate tea has strong antioxidant effect, reduces cholesterol and triglycerides, and can “be used to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.”
Mate has long been popular in Argentina but is recently becoming better known in the US and UK. Mate fans like myself enjoy the drink for its caffeine-like kick – a little less extreme than coffee, a more mellow feeling – and for the social side of sharing a mate with friends or family.