What Is Yerba Mate? Yerba mate is a traditional drink made from the dried leaves of an evergreen holly, Ilex paraguariensis, a native plant of South America. This plant is found in the wild but is also cultivated on plantations similarly to familiar kinds of tea. In countries where yerba mate is widely consumed, it assumes the cultural importance exemplified by coffee cafés and Japanese tea ceremonies. Drinking yerba mate tea is often a social event. Sharing this drink from a traditional gourd is a sign of friendship and bonding. Mate drinking has its own vocabulary, not unlike ordering a coffee at Starbucks! It’s wildly popular in Uruguay, where it’s not unusual to see people walking down the street sipping mate while carrying a thermos of hot water to refresh their drink. It’s officially the national drink of Argentina where 500 million dollars worth of it is consumed every year. (1, 2) According to one survey, it’s consumed in 92% of all Argentinian households. If you haven’t tried it, the best way to describe the taste is grassy and similar to green tea. If you weren’t raised on it, you might find it an acquired taste. But even if you don’t love it, you may want to drink it anyway. Yerba mate consumption is increasing in many parts of the world, but not because of the way it tastes. It’s gaining in popularity because of the way it improves how people feel.