How I met Yerba Mate
It’s been over a decade since my first drink of yerba mate. Freshly back from studying in Argentina, my sister handed me a gourd full of yerba mate. Steaming, full of green stuff, and with a funky straw poking out of it, I was a little hesitant. At first sip, I definitely didn’t think I’d get hooked and start a company dedicated to this amazing plant. After a few more turns with the gourd, I began to enjoy the bitter yet zesty taste. I like to say that yerba mate is, like a good wine, coffee, dark chocolate or whisky, an acquired taste. Over time it grows on you and you begin to crave it.
What I liked even more about it was the way it made me feel. As a student at the time, I’d often drink copious amounts of coffee or caffeinated soda to give me that extra boost while studying. What I found while drinking yerba mate was that it provided a far superior buzz to either of those. Unless you’ve experienced it yourself, there’s really no good way to describe it. Once you start drinking a gourd of yerba mate, you become clear headed but balanced, highly energized yet relaxed and comfortable in your own body. You become focused and able to accomplish any task you set out to do. It makes you feel the way you wish coffee made you feel. There is no muscle tension or stomachache, no jittery effect and no crash where you feel like you need to keep drinking coffee or go to sleep.
From college kid to Yerba Mate entrepreneur
So, I became hooked on yerba mate, and in 2007 I moved to Missoula, Montana to start my college education (I only half-jokingly attribute much of my collegiate success to my yerba mate habit). At the time, there was only one store that sold yerba mate and it cost over $20/lb. I got all my friends hooked on my daily yerba mate routine and I was drinking and sharing about a pound a week. $80/month adds up pretty quick for a college student, so I harnessed the power of the Internet and began sourcing yerba mate from South America, along with all the related paraphernalia.
For years I continued to import yerba mate and sell it to my friends, local health food stores and at the outdoor Farmers’ Market. I watched as US-based yerba mate companies began to pop up. I’d try them and none of them compared to the air-dried, aged Argentine yerba mate I was used to. They were too bitter, didn’t have enough stems and tasted too planty. I later realized that this is because most US-based companies import yerba from Paraguay, which is grown and processed differently than Argentine yerba mate (seen by most at the benchmark of the yerba mate world).
An undiscovered wonder-drink
I decided that the good people of North America deserved better, and in 2016, after two years of business startup training at the Blackstone Launchpad (a startup incubator), I launched Yerba Montana. Our goal is to share our amazing, organically grown, air-dried and aged Argentine yerba mate with as many people as possible in hopes that it helps them and they love it as much as we do. We believe that yerba is still a relatively undiscovered wonder-drink. Much like green tea was in the 90’s, it can be hard to find and relatively expensive.
Since getting started, we’ve shared our yerba with thousands of people, and we hope to continue doing so in a way that respects the people and ecosystems that make it all possible. Our partner farms use no pesticides, support a rainforest preserve that protects endangered species and offers competitive wages, healthcare and education to their employees. We use biodegradable packaging and generally believe that drinking out of a gourd and bombilla with your own thermos of water is both more environmentally and economically sustainable than nearly all other coffee and tea habits. This is because there are no paper cups, coffee filters or tea bags to throw away.
The unlimited potential of Yerba Mate
The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society in 1964 were interested in yerba mate and did a thorough study of its properties. The investigators concluded “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value” and that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.”
We believe this quote from the Pasteur Institute in Paris gives an indication of yerba mate’s almost unlimited potential. From increasing focus and alertness, boosting athletic performance, weight loss, alleviating depression and anxiety to aiding in general health, yerba mate has something to offer everyone. We raise our gourds to this amazing plant and hope to see you in our yerba mate circle soon.