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A Bit About Maté
by Bill Guddeck
Don't forget to check out our Drink Profit Calculator.
Serving Maté - In addition to being good for you, maté offers a high profitability margin, a unique way to diversify your menu, and is a great way to help the environment.
Legend has it that the Goddess of the Moon and the Goddess of the Cloud came to Earth and were threatened by a jaguar. An old man came to their rescue. In thanks, the Goddesses gifted the man with a new plant from which he could brew a “drink of friendship.” Ever since, drinking yerba maté (pronounced yair-ba mah-tay) has been a social tradition throughout South and Central America and its popularity is spreading fast. Yerba maté comes from the llex paraguariensis plant which is a member of the holly family and the best is grown in the shade of the South American rainforests. It’s small branches and leaves are harvested between May and July and are then dried either by smoking or using high powered fans. Typically, yerba maté is aged for 1-2 years, then cut, sorted into varying ratios of stems, leaves, and maté powder, and packaged. So…
Why Serve Maté?
Yerba maté is cited as the next big thing in beverages by The Center for Culinary Development and on the top five cutting edge ingredients in the world by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. This is, in no small part, because of the highly regarded health benefits that maté possesses. New studies are consistently coming out in praise of this green elixir and the research into the yerba plant is just heating up. In addition to being good for you, maté offers a high profitability margin, a unique way to diversify your menu, and is a great way to help the environment.
Did someone say Health Benefits?
Yerba Maté is commonly regarded as having a “clean buzz,” meaning the consumer receives the same alertness as a cup of coffee just without the jitters, stomach discomfort, and headaches that are often associated with coffee and energy drinks. This is due to the complex combination of stimulants to the central nervous system, such as caffeine and theobromine (the “euphoriant” in chocolate), balanced by pantothenic acid which prevents over simulation.
Maté also contains higher levels of antioxidants than green tea. The antioxidants along with the saponins, make maté a more potent stimulant of the immune system than Vitamin C. Maté can also help suppress allergy symptoms.
Yerba maté may also help with weight loss by reducing hunger cravings and making one feel full sooner. Xanthinines in mate help to break down stored body fat, as well. It has long beem used to aid in digestion and gastrointestinal disorders.
With 24 vitamins and minerals and 15 amino acids, who needs multi-vitamins?
Maté has a high potential for profitability because it has a low cost per serving, long shelf life, and an uncanny knack for up selling. The only thing needed for a maté beverage is a cup of hot water. From there the possibilities are endless. Maté is a candidate for all sorts of add-ons from flavored syrups to espresso. The quick addition of steamed milk to a concentrated maté liquid makes the Maté Latte which can easily demand the same price as an espresso latte. Further customization can up sell yet again. Add a shot or two of espresso or flavored syrup, or add concentrated maté to a smoothie for a healthy punch of antioxidants. A long shelf life means that your investment in maté will have plenty of time to pay off, however, we doubt you’ll need it.
Yerba maté offers the perfect “in-between”: more boost than tea and none of the harmful side effects of coffee. Even though maté comes from a complex tradition of preparation, including gourds and bombillas which make for a fun drinking experience, it can just as easily be made with a cup and hot water. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It really is a beverage all to its own that can be customized in anyway the consumer would like. Let’s start with a simple hot tea which can then be made iced. As a plus, maté does not get bitter from over steeping like typical tea. Then we could steam it with milk like a chai and some choose to add a shot or two of espresso for an extra kick. Maté can even be extracted through a portafilter for a doppio a la maté. You can run it through a drip coffee maker or make it in a French press. Yerba maté is also a perfect match for the Toddy Cold Brew System so you can create your own concentrate. However, the diversity doesn’t stop there.
Yerba maté traditionally comes as a loose leaf tea in a variety of bag sizes, but it is also available in single-serve tea bag form. Maté is sold in an array of flavors blended with such things as chocolate, chai spices, lemongrass, rooibos, and hibiscus. There are ready made concentrates of the traditional and chai flavors. Ready-to-Drink bottled maté is newly available. To find all the possibilities of maté, experimentation is recommended.
As if another reason was needed to add maté to your menu: maté is saving the world. Yerba maté suppliers work closely with the local farmers in South America to practice organic and sustainable agriculture. Establishing positive relationships with the growers is a good way for ensuring that the highest quality product is imported and sold to the consumer. It is also a great thing for the farmers and their families as they receive a fair wage for their effort. Most suppliers are dedicated to the preservation of the rainforests in which maté grows, by supporting and promoting re-growth efforts. Many companies in the maté biz are into alternative energies to power their operations both domestically and internationally.
Pixie Maté utilizes the Argentine cut which contains no stems or powder. Pixie is hot-air dried and has a clean taste profile. It is available loose in 8oz., 1 lb., and 8 lbs. bags and in boxes of 20 tea bags. The tea bags offer many different flavor options: Dark Roast, Limon, Ruby Rooibos, Green Tea Maté, Chocolate Solstice, Lush Tropics, Authentic, and Chai. Pixie’s liquid concentrates come in an Original blend, flavored with cardamom, clove, and vanilla, and a Chai blend. Pixie also offers a line of bottled maté beverages in Authentic, Green Tea, and Limon Ginger Black Tea flavors.
The Paraguayan cut used by Guayaki contains a balanced combination of stems, leaves, and maté powder. Guayaki is smoked using a wood drying process and the wood for this is scavenged: no trees are cut down. This process along with the stems and powder gives the mate a more robust and earthy flavor. Loose leaf Guayaki is available in 8oz., 1lb., and 5lb. bags. Boxes of tea bags are offered in: Traditional, Greener Green, Magical Mint, Chai Spiced, Chocolate, Orange Blossom, and Red Tea . Guayaki is available in liquid concentrate Traditional and Chai Spiced flavors. Mate Gourd Gift packs are a unique and interesting addition to your maté offerings.
Many other products have come onto the market that contain yerba maté:
- Jet’s APB flavor uses maté tea as the base for their delicious fruit smoothie.
- Oregon Chai’s New Super Concentrate blends yerba maté and chai.
- Numi Tea offers Rainforest Green, a flavor that blends maté with green tea and lemon myrtle.
- Mighty Leaf has Rainforest Maté which is a mélange of maté, licorice, rosehips, pineapple chunks, and spices.
Tools You Will Need
Loose leaf teas should always be stored in airtight containers so that the freshness is kept for as long as possible. Serving loose leaf also requires the use of a strainer of some sort such as tea balls or paper filters. Tea pots and French presses will work, too. Hollowed out gourds are traditional serving vessels of yerba maté and can be found with various hand crafted designs. If you choose to go with a gourd, then a bombilla is required. Bombillas are essentially metal straws with notches at one end which filter out large maté pieces making strainers unnecessary. The gourd and bombilla combo create an authentic South American maté experience. Both Pixie and Guayaki offer display racks for their retail boxes of tea bags and point-of-sale merchandise to bring the world of maté to your customer’s attention.
Links & Strategies
- Remember to prominently display that your shop offers Yerba Maté. Post it on your menu, place table tents around the seating area, and hang posters.
- Knowledge of a product is very important to its success. Make sure your staff is informed about what maté is and the benefits of drinking it, so when a customer asks they are prepared.
- Sample! Give the customer a chance to try maté in a commitment free environment and let the product speak for itself.
- Offer retail sales of maté to boost overall awareness.
- POS material is free. Get it and use it to increase sales. People won’t buy what they don’t know about.
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