Yerba Máte is used to make a tea beverage known as máte in Spanish and Portuguese. It is traditionally consumed in central and southern regions of South America but has experienced a renaissance here in the United States, often marketed as a caffeine substitute and/or mixed in with energy drinks, even though the active ingredient, mateine, is simply another name for caffeine. The flavor of brewed máte resembles an infusion of vegetables, herbs, grass and is reminiscent of some varieties of green tea. The word máte means ‘gourd’ in Spanish and is the traditional vessel in which Yerba Máte is served in South America.
Ilex paraguariensis begins as a shrub and then matures to a tree and can grow up to 49 ft tall. The leaves are evergreen, 0.3–4.3 in long and 1.2–2.2 in wide, with a serrated margin. The leaves are often called yerba (Spanish) or erva (Portuguese), both of which mean “herb”.
The flowers are small, greenish-white, with four petals. The fruit is a red drupe 0.16–0.24 in in diameter.