March 18, 2012

Matteh, A Healthy Traditional Drink

Throw away your energy drinks! Matteh is much better! 

In winter, our house was like a walk-in industrial freezer. So we had to keep ourselves warm with a heater, and surely with food and drink.
Cocoa milk, hot custard, rice and milk ( riz bi haleeb) were always there to keep us warm and give us energy. Not to mention the whole set of hot drinks, green tea, black tea, zhourat ( i.e flower mix ), rosemary tea, ..and finally Yerba Mate.
Yerba mate was our afternoon tradition, sipping it while eating a chocolate bar aside!
Even during Ramadan, mom made it custom for us after we break our fast to drink matteh ( the lebanese pronunciation). Drinking quinched our thirst, rehydrated our bodies, gave us energy and eased digestion!
Below will be the scientific proofs for all what we felt after drinking it.


Yerba mate has indeed an exquisite history. It is not Lebanese. It is originally a South American drink:
  • The Guarani peoples of South America were the earliest to harvest and drink yerba mate.  
  • They considered the yerba tree a gift of the gods and they called it the "drink of the gods".  
  • Yerba Mates was part of their rituals and as used as a currency of exchange with the Incas and the Charruas. 
  •  Every part of the preparation and drinking of yerba mate is in fact a ceremony or ritual.
  • When the Spanish conquistadors came to Argentina early in the 16 th century and found the indigenous people drinking yerba mate, they tried the tea, liked it, and learned how to brew the tea.
  • This created a demand for the tea all over Europe and by the 1600s the Jesuits were harvesting and cultivating it on yerba mate plantations. It was called the "Tea of Jesuits".

Today it is being cultivated on plantations in parts of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Many attempts have been made to cultivate the herb in similar areas on other continents, but outstandingly they have all failed.
The custom of yerba mate from processing to consumption has basically remained unchanged from early times.
The huge Lebanese diaspora that reside all over the world and mostly in South America, brought this drink and habit to Lebanon when they came back.
Drinking matteh or yerba mate in Lebanon is mostly common among those who reside in the mountains.

Nutritional Content:

Each infusion of Mate contains:
  • Vitamins: A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, B6 Complex
  • Minerals: Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus
  • The phenolic compounds such as flavonoids (quercetin and rutin) and phenolic acids (chlorogenic and caffeic acids).
  • Yerba mate is also rich in caffeine and saponins.
  • Additional Compounds: Fatty Acids, Chlorophyll, Trace Minerals,Pantothenic Acid and 15 Amino Acids.
The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society, in 1964, says that : "it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value...containing practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life."

Yerba mate contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and 11 polyphenols, a group of phytochemicals which act as powerful antioxidants. In addition to polyphenols, yerba mate leaves contain saponins. Saponins are phytochemicals that have been found to specifically stimulate the immune system and aid the body in protecting against disease.

Health Benefits:
  • ENERGYZING: First, Yerba mate has the famous reputation of energizing ! This is due to the naturally occurring caffeine in it.
  • RELAXING: It has a soothing effect on muscles due to the high content of magnesium.
  • ANTIOXIDANT: Yerba mate has a healing effect due to the high antioxidants. A research study in the  Oxford journal Mutagensis (2008)  proved that mate offers a protective effect against DNA Damage 
  • ANTICANCEROUS: study done in the university of Illinois found that certain compounds in yerba mate induce death in colon cancer cells.  ( Link to study)
  • ANTIOBESITY: The Obesity research journal published a study in 2009, claiming  that yerba mate extracts have weight management effects.
  • IMMUNITY: Saponins are phytochemicals that have been found to specifically stimulate the immune system and aid the body in protecting against disease.
  • Heart Loving: It was proved by a scientific study of its vasodilatation effects . This means it reduces serum levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Another study showed how mate tea inhibited atherosclerosis.
Yerba Mate Versus Coffee:
 Yerba Mate might not compete with coffee in its taste and aroma. Yerba is known for its light taste but also bitterness just like the coffee.

 Personally, yerba mate used to keep me energetic but at the same time I was able to go to sleep unlike tea or coffee!
 Caffeine is one of many alkaloid compounds called trimethyl xanthines. Present in mate are two other xanthines called theophylline and theobromine. Because of the presence of these two other xanthines (which are smooth muscle relaxants), mate generally doesn't cause a jittery effect like coffee can.

How to drink Mate:

Coffee Pot way: 
Boil the water, add the leaves. Let it steep for 3-8 minutes.   Then pour of this special Mate Cup and straw. You may add sugar or milk in the cup to make it sweet .You just feel royal when seeping it , I guarantee that! :)

How do you drink your yerba mate? Do you put sugar ? or milk?
Do you drink it cold/iced or hot?

Matteh will always remind me of the cold afternoons I spent drinking it with my family. This is my story.
You have any story or habit to share?  Come on share it with the world!

Bon Appetit,

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