Yerba mate is the national drink of Argentina. Mate is dried green leaves and stems from the tree Ilex paraguarensis. It contains three xanthines (a chemical family that stimulates the central nervous system). Proponents of the beverage suggest it has powers such as mental stimulation, fatigue reduction, stress reduction, insomnia elimination, appetite control, and blood purification. (Kind of a natural energy drink.) Studies have also demonstrated potential anti-cancer benefits, due in part to its long list of antioxidants.
On The Menu: Mate is traditionally brewed and served in a dried-out gourd and sipped through a filtered metal straw (bombilla), to prevent drinkers from ending up with a mouthful of the hay-flavored leaves. The gourd is often passed back and fourth and mate sometimes served with honey or sugar to cut the bitter taste.