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Yerba Mate vs Coffee: The Differences Explained (With Pictures)

yerba mate vs coffee

Yerba mate and coffee have very different flavors and preparation methods, but they have more in common than you might think. Both of these drinks offer health benefits like nutrients and antioxidants, along with the mood-boosting, focus-improving effects of caffeine.

What’s the difference between yerba mate and coffee, and which should you choose to start your day? Keep reading for our detailed rundown!

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What is yerba mate?

Yerba mate is an herbal tea made with the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant. The leaves and small twigs are collected from the plant and dried. Just like any tea, you steep them in hot water to make yerba mate.

This unique tea has a distinctive (some would say acquired) taste. It’s popular in South America, particularly Argentina, where many people drink it every day out of a gourd-shaped cup with a metal straw.

What are yerba mate’s health benefits?

Yerba mate is known for being full of antioxidants and nutrients. Some of that may be a little overblown since you’re not getting a whole lot of nutrients in a single cup of tea. But you can expect some strange-sounding antioxidants like caffeoyl derivatives, polyphenols, and saponins (which can help lower cholesterol).

Yerba mate may also protect you from some types of cancer and obesity. It’s been a medicinal drink for centuries! And that is not including one key ingredient: caffeine…

yerba mate
Image Credit: Unsplash

Caffeine in Yerba Mate vs Coffee

How much caffeine can you expect in yerba mate? A cup of yerba mate typically has about 85 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup of coffee contains about 95. That means that yerba mate is more caffeinated than regular black tea but less than coffee. Drinking a cup of yerba mate tea will give you some of the improved focus and mood you get from drinking coffee — but a bit less.

What are coffee’s health benefits?

Yerba mate may have some impressive antioxidants, but coffee boasts quite a few health benefits, too. Along with the mood and focus benefits of caffeine, studies have shown that drinking coffee also reduces your risk of certain cancers, diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and serious issues like obesity and diabetes. Coffee can also help digestion by boosting your metabolism and increasing the production of stomach acids. According to some studies, drinking coffee even lowers your risk of mortality overall!

coffee beans

Brewing Methods & Flavors

Unless you live in Argentina, you may find yerba mate a little harder to get your hands on. But if you do have access to a steady supply of leaves and twigs, you’ll find yerba mate very easy to brew — just like making any cup of loose-leaf tea!

Keep in mind that yerba mate has a strong bitter flavor — more like espresso than regular brewed coffee. Like with coffee, many people don’t love the flavor the first time they try it. But chances are good that you can develop a taste for either drink.

Coffee is much more available around the world, and you can choose from many brewing methods. Opt for a high-end Italian espresso machine or an inexpensive AeroPress, accommodating any budget. Drinking coffee also allows you to experiment with bean origins, roast levels, and all kinds of fun toppings.

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Yerba Mate vs Coffee: Which Should You Choose?

The bottom line? If you love tea and want to try a new herbal drink, you may love yerba mate. On the other hand, if you want a more accessible drink that allows you to experiment, coffee might be your best option. Our advice? Order a yerba mate and a cup of coffee at a coffee shop before you make your choice. You may be surprised by which drink you prefer — and you won’t have invested more than a few dollars. Whatever you choose, we hope you enjoy your caffeinated drink!

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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