Yerba Mate is an immensely popular caffeinated Herbal Tea originating from South America. In recent years, health-conscious individuals have flocked to this brew due to its proven Yerba Mate benefits. According to research, it can, among other qualities, improve cardiovascular health, aid digestion and promote weight loss. But where did it all begin? Lets explore Yerba Mate Tea History.

Contrary to popular belief, drinking Yerba Mate for its medicinal qualities dates back thousands of years. Indeed, it was the indigenous people of South America that first realised its potential. In this blog, we will dive deep into the history of this wholesome and invigorating infusion.

Early History

Early History

During the pre-Columbian era, the indigenous peoples of South America knew Yerba Mate as “The Drink of the Gods”. Evidence suggests that the Guarani of northern Argentina and the Tupi of southern Brazil were the first to apply Yerba Mate benefits to their daily lives. This carried on for centuries, with each new generation realising the full potential of this remarkable beverage. 

Change came in the form of sails on the horizon. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the continent in 1492, a new age dawned. The Spaniards were, at first, astonished by the health and vitality of these indigenous tribes. The locals explained how the Gods had bestowed upon them Yerba Mate benefits as a reward for their righteousness.

Years later, a Catholic congregation known as the Jesuits arrived in South America. Hearing the stories of this strange herb, the Jesuits dubbed it demonic and banned anyone from drinking it. Yet this was short-lived after it became clear that prohibition had impacted the number of Catholic converts. Soon after, the colonists began to exploit the tribes instead.

Late History

Late History

“The Drink of the Gods” quickly turned into “The Green Gold of the Indios”. Many indigenous people found themselves thrust into slavery, forced to work on Yerba Mate plantations that only benefited their conquerors. The Spaniards built roads for its transport, and even started to export the herb overseas. The Jesuits, meanwhile, claimed that it was a gift from their God.

In 1767, the Spanish King Charles III expelled the Jesuits from Spain and her South American colonies. This had a dramatic influence on Yerba Mate production, which quickly declined soon after. Matters were made worse by the Paraguayan War (1864-70), which saw Argentina and Brazil annexe critical farmland.

By the 20th century, the industry had recovered. In Philadelphia, USA, the establishment of The Yerba Mate Company saw a resurgence in its popularity. Soon, farms began appearing once again across South America. By 2011, Argentina broke the world record for exports, with this beverage now loved around the world. The reason? Yerba Mate benefits, of course!

Yerba Mate History Today

Yerba Mate History Today

Yerba Mate continues to enthral millions. Despite its turbulent history, it clearly has a bright future. In the Uruguayan city of Montevideo, for example, an estimated 80% of the population drinks it daily. Such is its popularity, the government has had to pass a law making it illegal to drink it while driving! Those who take public transport, meanwhile, can (and do!) drink as much as they like. 

Even The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company have a personal history with this herb. One of our team members, Annie Bowers, has been passed down stories about Yerba Mate from her former missionary grandfather. Mr Walter Robbins spent many years working with the Argentinian Wichí people in Salta Province. While there, he often shared a Gould or two with the locals! 

Since returning to the UK, the whole family has adopted the tradition of drinking this Tea. Now you can, too, with our numerous Yerba Mate products. If you’re just starting to explore the world of this Tea, our Yerba Mate Kit is an excellent first step. 

Those who already have the appropriate utensils may instead choose something a little different. For this, we recommend Detox Yerba Mate and Chilli Tea. With this beverage, expect a mixture of tropical pineapple notes, a spicy kick and a sweet, citrusy aroma. 

Whatever you decide upon, you’ve decided well with us. We pack every Tea, Tisane and Coffee fresh to order. This ensures not only quality but also consistency. 

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Author: Richard Smith

Partner at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company

Richard Smith is a Tea expert, entrepreneur, and owner of The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. Part of a family of renowned Tea planters dating back four generations, he was born in Calcutta (Kolkata), India, where he spent his childhood between Tea Estates in Assam and Darjeeling.

In the late 1970s, having accumulated years of knowledge in the industry, Mr Smith and his mother, Janet Smith, moved to Kent, South East England, to establish a Tea business in the village of Pluckley. Their early days of packing Tea Bags by hand from chests of 10,000 prompted the creation of the company’s flagship infusion known as Pluckley Tea. It remains our most popular product today.

Mr Smith, who studied economics at London Polytechnic, has since specialised in over 1,000 types of Loose Leaf Tea - in addition to around 70 varieties of Roast Coffee - from around the world. These are now available at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company, where everything is still packed by hand and fresh to order, not only to honour tradition but to ensure the utmost quality and consistency.