Coffee, Tea, or Yerba Mat??

TOUTED AS THE next big alternative to coffee and tea, yerba
mat?, a traditional South American drink, promotes alertness and
contentment?without the negative side effects of caffeine. The
Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society concluded that
yerba mat? contains practically all of the vitamins necessary to
sustain life. With 196 active components?including the mild
stimulant mateine?it?s filled with minerals, amino acids,
chlorophyll, and antioxidants, which boost the immune system, help
relieve allergies and migraines, improve digestion, increase
libido, cleanse the blood, and even recondition hair color. Grown
responsibly, it?s also good for local economies in the

With an earthy, cedar-infused taste, yerba mat? is traditionally
drunk in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and southern Brazil. Its
leaves grow on wild trees in the rainforest. ?For many years, the
yerba mat? industry provided some protection for the region?s
biodiversity, since the wild-growing trees gave native forests
value,? reports Mike Ceaser in Americas (August
2002). But the value of the leaves grew so high in the 1990s that
farmers cut down forests to make space for cultivated yerba mat?
plantations. Now at least one company is attempting a more
sustainable model.

In 1990, Francisco Rivas first planted shade-grown yerba mat? in
a section of rainforest land he owns in eastern Paraguay. Those
leaves arrived in the United States a few years later after Alex
Pryor, an Argentinian food science student, brought some back to
school in San Luis Obispo, California, after visiting Rivas?s
plantation. Now the two export yerba mat? to the U.S. under the
name Guayak?, named after the Ache Guayak? indigenous people who
live in the region.

Ceaser reports that the advantages of shade-grown yerba are
larger, moister, sweeter leaves, shade for the soil, and habitat
for birds. But, he writes, ?the Guayak? process is far from
impact-free.? In order to plant the mat?, all the rain forest, with
the exception of the tallest canopy trees, is chopped down. Pryor
pointed out, however, that ?the income from the yerba mat?
plantation helps make it economically possible for Rivas to
preserve forest on the rest of his property, which otherwise might
be cleared for cattle.? And today, 34 families are able to sustain
their cultural heritage and traditional ceremonies by producing
Guayak? yerba mat?.

Called the drink of the gods, yerba mat? leaves have been found
in pre-Columbian tombs in Peru. In old Argentina, its drinking
ceremony was said to ignite passion in lovers or inspire a duel
between rivals. Today, yerba mat? continues as a South American
tradition of hospitality and friendship. The drinking ceremony,
typically shared in a circle of family and friends, is a time to
share ideas and stories, to pause for contemplation, to lift the
spirit, as well as the body.???????

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.