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Yerba mate and coffee. Two energy sisters

2022-09-27
Yerba mate and coffee. Two energy sisters

Yerba mate - cool and joyful. Just like coffee - full of vigour. "What to choose, my friend?", the lady asked me. I chose mate, a Guarani’s miracle... Coffee and yerba mate. Both sisters that give you a huge energy boost. Which one is better and stronger, healthier and tastier? Let's take a closer look at them and decide!

Summary:

  1. Basic information about yerba mate and coffee
  2. Yerba mate vs coffee - are they healthy?
  3. Preparation of yerba mate and coffee
  4. Which drink tastes better?
  5. Yerba mate or coffee? Statistics
  6. Final decision. What is better? Yerba mate or coffee?

Basic informations about yerba mate and coffee

As black as coffee

Let's start from the beginning. Coffee is made from roasted coffea beans, a plant, whose properties were originally discovered around 3,000 years ago in Ethiopia. Initially, the ancient people of this African country used only the coffee fruit - they consumed it with the addition of butter and salt. Between the 13th and 14th century, the coffee berries were brought to Yemen by traders, where the method of roasting the beans and preparing an infusion from them was probably first discovered.

Yerba mate - green gold of South America

Yerba mate differs from coffee in many ways. It is made from the dried and crushed leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis, which grows in the borderlands of four countries in South America: Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The first “discoverers” of yerba mate were the Guarani Indians. They at first chewed raw, freshly harvested leaves of the plant and they found that this is giving them energy, increasing concentration and reducing hunger. Later, they began to make an infusion from the dried leaves, which we know today as yerba mate. Both infusions have a common denominator - strongly stimulating properties. But which one is better - yerba mate or coffee?

Caffeine content and effects

The most important point is caffeine. Both yerba mate and coffee contain caffeine so they have a stimulating effect, but they work quite differently. I’m sure you know that feeling when, after a long stimulation with a morning cuppa, there comes a moment of “coming down"? You feel weak and you would prefer to go to bed and just stay here for half of a day, but you still can't fall asleep? Another cup of coffee or anything else that keeps you stimulated would help. But does this make sense? Coffee takes effect almost immediately. The highest concentration of stimulants in the blood is about 20-30 minutes after consumption. But this concentration decreases just as quickly and you feel worse than before you drank coffee. On the other hand, we have yerba mate. Its stimulation is stable and long-lasting, you do not feel a sudden loss of energy. Yerba mate, along with the energy boost, releases relaxing substances (theophylline, theobromine) that dilate the blood vessels while lowering blood pressure. They also have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system. Yerba mate helps to regulate various bodily functions, which is why the reaction to the dry mate is much more natural than with coffee. Especially when consuming too much, the strong stimulation after mate will simply pass over time. In the case of coffee, it passes in a less pleasant way.

Yerbata mate versus coffee

Yerba mate vs coffee - are they healthy?

Both drinks contain an abundance of nutrients, minerals and antioxidants. Both coffee and mate contain riboflavin, pantothenic acid and potassium, B vitamins, which improve mood and concentration, zinc and vitamin C, which improves immunity. Yerba mate additionally contains vitamin E, which also has antioxidant properties. Coffee also has an antioxidant effect. Both drinks contain magnesium, but coffee also leaches it out of the body. A side effect of drinking a lot of coffee can therefore be a magnesium deficiency. Eyelid twitching, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, problems with concentration despite being stimulated? These are the effects of drinking too much coffee, but never yerba mate. Why not try it then? Yerba mate does not have many negative side effects. With coffee, they tend to be more frequent and more intense.

Preparation of yerba mate and coffee

The truth is that preparation of coffee is more practical. It is much easier and quicker to prepare a cup of coffee than to prepare yerba mate. All this stuff like cooling the water, the proper maintenance of the mate gourd (especially calabashes and palo santo) and bombilla, the removal of the finest dust, the waiting for the "first sip of St. Thomas" (the soaking of the dried mate with water) - all this creates the ritual of preparing yerba mate. It is magical in its own way, but it takes a lot of time. And it is much easier to simply pour in the coffee to the cup and pour hot water over it. If you don’t have time you will probably choose coffee, but is it really worth it?

Which drink tastes better?

Exactly! What about taste? Let everyone decide for themselves. This is an entirely subjective matter. I firmly believe that some beginners could be put off by the taste of yerba mate because they have made a poor choice of the product. It is the same with coffee - not everyone likes it. Has anyone who complains about the bitter taste of yerba mate tried bitter black coffee without any additives? It's not tasty at all... There are some people who can't imagine a day without it, others can't stand the taste and smell of it. In these times of great choice of species, types, preparation methods, everyone can find something for themselves. All you need is willingness and being open to suggestions. Yes, if you are used to drinking coffee sweetened with three or four teaspoons of sugar and with milk added in a 50:50 ratio, it will be difficult to change it to the bitter, slightly grassy taste of yerba mate. Now I will probably surprise many of you - yerba mate can also be sweetened! Mate tea with fruity and herbal additives, sweetened with honey or brown sugar tastes similar to sweetened herbal tea. In this way, you can become accustomed to its taste and make a smooth transition to drinking “paraguayan tea” without additives.

Yerba mate or coffee? Statistics

Before making a final judgement, it is still worth mentioning the statistics in which the two drinks perform very unevenly. Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world and this can’t be disputed. There is probably not a person who has not tasted it at least once. The vast majority of people have a can of coffee on their kitchen shelf - even if they don't drink it regularly. The coffee market is huge. According to statistics, 10.5 billion kilos of coffee were produced in 2020. This is really a huge amount! Most of it is produced in South America - Brazil is in first place. Coffee is also produced in Asia, Central America and Africa. The production of yerba mate compares significantly worse than production of coffee, which is mainly due to the limited occurrence of Ilex paraguariensis from which it is made - the plant only grows in South America, on the border of four countries. In 2021, “only” 283 million kilograms of yerba mate were produced. In terms of popularity, coffee wins by far, but is it actually better than yerba mate?

Final decision. What is better? Yerba mate or coffee?

Which drink wins the ranking? Which one of two stimulating sisters is better - yerba mate or coffee? It is impossible to unequivocally settle this dispute and answer the question that is bothering many of you. The reason for this is first and foremost the fact that, as they say, someone's taste should not be discussed. You like what you like and no one should tell you what to choose, what to drink and eat. If someone is used to drinking coffee, to its taste and aroma, it will be difficult to persuade him or her to change their mind, even if you list the many benefits of drinking yerba mate. Both lovers of coffee and yerba mate will claim that their drink is the best and it will be difficult to convince them to change their opinion. In fact, each of them will be right. I chose mate and I wouldn't swap it for coffee. Someone else will choose coffee and he wouldn't swap it for mate tea. The best choice is a free choice. Therefore, I am withholding any clear-cut judgements and, as always, I leave the decision to you. Although I will always talk about the benefits of yerba mate. In the age of chemical, body-damaging energy drinks, a return to nature in the form of yerba mate is a step in the right direction.


Source of information:

  1. W. H. Ukers, All About Coffee, 1922.
  2. J. Hoffmann, The World Atlas of Coffee: From beans to brewing - coffees explored, explained and enjoyed, 2018.
  3. R. Włosiak, M. Rudny, E. Skrobek, E. Worobiej, B. Drużyńska, The characteristic of aroma and antioxidant properties of chosen infusions of stimulants and herbs, “ŻYWNOŚĆ. Nauka. Technologia. Jakość (FOOD. Science. Technology. Quality)”, 2007, 3 (52), s. 109-118.
  4. C.I. Heck, E.G. de Mejia, Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): a comprehensive review on chemistry, health implications, and technological considerations, J Food Sci, November 2007, 72 (9).
  5. International Coffee Organization.
  6. Instituto Nacional de la Yerba Mate.
  7. Statista.com.
  8. Wikipedia.org: Yerba mate, Coffee, Theophylline, Theobromine.

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