We love Mate!

Lots of people ask me why I don’t add the accent over the e, as in maté.  The accent is actually not a traditional part of the word.  It came from English speakers’ overcompensation to prevent each other from saying “mate,” as in running mate, life mate, or, you know, to mate, the verb.  I choose to leave the accent off because it is not used in South America, where the herb grows, and because the Spanish mate means “I killed.”  There is no right or wrong answer.  Except when one day my dad called me up and said, “Amy, I was reading your web site and it said ‘Shop for Black Teas, Shop for Green Teas, Shop for …Mates.’  What kind of business are you running?!”

You may have noticed that I just referred to mate as an herb, not a tea.  That’s because, technically, all true tea comes from one very special Asian plant, camellia sinensis.  Camellia sinensis is the plant that yields black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and white tea.  There’s even a yellow tea.  How one little plant can make so many different flavors and experiences is a conversation for another day.  Tea (camellia sinensis), mate, cola nut, coffee, and chocolate are all different caffeine containing plants. Mate is not tea, so to speak; it’s mate.  But language evolves, and “tea” is a bit of an umbrella term.  Herbal teas are actually “tisanes,” and mate is actually mate, but I call them all tea.  Just don’t call rooibos “dragonwell” and you’ll be okay.

Does mate have “trace” amounts of caffeine, or is mate “stronger than coffee”?  I hear both claims about mate regularly.  I also get asked, “how much caffeine does this have?” about almost every tea in my line.  The truth is, I don’t know.  I can point you toward a wild abundance of conflicting data.  It would be easy if all we had to do was measure the percentage of caffeine per dry weight in each plant and compare them.  In that version of reality, the highest, youngest leaf on the tip top of the tea plant has the most caffeine per dry weight of any plant known.  But caffeine is only one of a handful of methylated xanthines (caffeine and caffeine-like chemicals) found in these plants, all of which stimulate the central nervous system in unique ways.  Mate and tea have theobromine, whereas coffee doesn’t.  Theobromine is reputedly responsible for giving you the milder, longer lasting energy, in contrast to coffee/caffeine’s aggressive spike-and-crash energy. 

Secondly, if you really want an answer to which plant has the “most” caffeine,” we have to account the effects of volume and temperature. Coffee is considered more caffeinated than tea, not because of the amount of caffeine per milligram, but because we tend to use more grounds to make our cuppa jo than we use leaves for our afternoon tea.  Many people make mate just like tea—one or two teaspoons in your favorite mug.  In South America, you’ll find people drinking mate out of gourds. Yerba means herb, and mate is related to the word for the gourd from which it is traditionally enjoyed.  If you drink mate from a gourd, you may be drinking multiple infusions of a couple ounces of mate at a time.  Caffeine also extracts better with higher temperatures and longer durations. If mate has more caffeine than tea, it has a whole lot more if you are drinking it from a traditional gourd at high temperatures.

As much as I love geeking out on the medicinal qualities of herbs, I’m not going to tell you that mate has 3 million fifty six qualities and that benefit the human body where tea only has 3 million twenty, or that one fights cancer and makes you lose weight, but the other doesn’t.  Both mate and tea are good sources of antioxidants, both are mineral rich, both have bitter qualities which stimulate digestion, and both help mental focus.

Metolius has seven mate blends .  Mate Coco Spice is our top selling mate blend.  Mate lends an earthy base to toasted coconut, chocolate pieces, and spices including cayenne, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. It is wonderful simmered in milk on a cold fall day when you aren’t quite ready to let go of the beautiful summer.  Cardamom Rose Mate is our second best seller and my personal favorite mate blend.  I designed this tea after using Angeline’s Skin Care’s Cardamom Rose facial wash.  Oh, it is lovely. So lovely I realized I had to drink it!  Pink peppercorns give this blend a dazzling finish. 

The mate chai has a special story.  I started my tea adventure five years ago as a plant geek. Curious about herbalism, wildcrafting, botany, and tea, I was eagerly designing a lengthy medicinal tea line for a local tea company when I realized I hadn’t designed any tea just for me.  I started researching and realized I needed “chi tonics,” herbs to help build core energy.  I also needed warming herbs.  So, I put two sets of herbs together, adapotgens (rhodiola, eleuthero, licorice) and spices (cardamom, ginger, cinnamon), to make a “chi chai.”  I loved my chi chai and drank it regularly, and a few others started drinking it too, but on a whim, I ground up my chi chai and blended it with mate, and now it is “mate chai.”

The Sunny Mate is the house blend for Sunny Yoga Cafe.  I use star anise to invoke happiness visually (it’s also great as a digestion herb), lemongrass for its clean and bright way, passionflower for its calming effect, and licorice, to sweeten things up.  I dearly love creating tea blends that match the personalities of people and the atmospheres of businesses. 

The last three mates are fresh off the press, so please tell me all about your experience drinking them!  Lemon Ginger Mate uses candied ginger (I’ve always wanted to use candied ginger in tea), lemongrass, and lemon peel.  This makes a yummy sun tea. Sue’s Mate I made for my best friend Eugene’s girlfriend. She wanted a mate that was mostly herbs, and only a little mate so she could make it through the tail end of work but not end up with trouble falling asleep. We don’t have a name for this tea yet, thus “Sue’s Mate.”  Amy’s Mate is also waiting for a name.  I love using coconut because it gives tea a nice body. It also has lavender from Cascade Lavender farm in Madras, jasmine green tea, lemongrass, and chrysanthemum blossoms. Most mate blends have sharper flavors, bitters and spices, but I wanted a floral, more feminine mate.  And if you are stumped as to whether mate or green tea is “better,” you can just drink both at once.

Amy SeidenvergComment