In this article, we would like to look at the ingredients, their significance in a cultural and medical context and the enjoyment of tea itself. In doing so, we will first look at the plant, explain some of the substances it contains and the effects on the human body. The evaluation of mate tea as a stimulating drink and medicinal potion is quite ambivalent. However, the triumph of the caffeinated drink in Europe and various social groups and milieus is undisputed: students, athletes, health-conscious, spiritual people, vegans and vegetarians, friends of South American cuisine and lifestyle.
The sought-after ingredients in the mate shrub are found in higher concentrations in the leaves, which are dried and processed into tea. Up to 1.6% mate caffeine content can be found in them. What is caffeine and how does it work? What other substances are contained in the mate leaf and how do these substances affect the body?
The alkaloid caffeine, also known as teein or caffeine, is a stimulating, energising substance from the group of xanthines. It is found in coffee, tea, cola, guarana and, sometimes in extreme quantities, in energy drinks. It is considered to have a stimulating and slightly psychoactive effect, but to a very manageable extent, so that, for example, perception is not altered.
In a positive sense, caffeine has a general stimulating effect and stimulates the circulation (central nervous system). It has also been documented to cause bronchial dilation, which provides relief for people with breathing difficulties in the bronchial space. Furthermore, it stimulates a sluggish intestine and promotes the musculature there. Depending on the condition and the person, the following properties are beneficial or harbour dangers: increase in blood pressure, increase in heart rate and pulse, inhibition of muscle contraction.
Clearly negative effects include increased gastric acid production and, with too much caffeine, sleep disturbances and nervousness occur.
Another alkaloid with a similar structure is theobromine. It is also slightly psychoactive and stimulates the nervous system. It is also this substance that stimulates urinary and bladder activity when drinking tea or coffee, for example. It also has a vasodilatory effect, stimulates the heart and is therefore contained in some medicines for the treatment of coronary arteries. It also counteracts the urge to cough in cough medicines.
The natural substance theophylline also comes from the group of alkaloids and has a similar effect to its two relatives already described. Its positive effect in bronchial diseases and acute respiratory distress is particularly noteworthy. Although overdoses can also lead to negative effects such as heart palpitations and a drop in blood pressure, theophylline's positive properties make it an indispensable ingredient in very many medicines, complementing other drugs well or cancelling out their negative effects.
This is a whole group of different natural substances that are found not only in mate tea but also in many foods. Humans absorb them in relatively large quantities without any problems. The effects are overwhelmingly positive. Among other things, they can have an anti-allergic, antibacterial and antiviral effect and activate the immune system.
Mate tea is enjoyed with special mate accessories and should be prepared and drunk with great calm and care. The dried leaves are placed in the mate cup, called a calabash, and first covered with warm water and stirred before finally being covered with hot water in the vessel. The typical mate cup is made of a dried bottle gourd or wood.
In addition, various utensils are used for the traditional preparation. The drink is enjoyed through a very specific device. The metal drinking straw, the bombilla, is a filter that prevents powder and leaves from entering the mouth when drinking. It is placed inside the calabash while the tea is sipped at the narrow end. This procedure can be repeated as often as desired with friends, as the mate leaves are very productive and mate tea traditionally tastes strong.
In the meantime, the consumption of mate tea, which has been practised in some South American countries for over 1000 years, has also become widespread in the Western world. Along with certain foods, dishes and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, mate tea is one of the most popular specialities from South America and is imported in large quantities.
The trade is flourishing, as both the craftsmanship of the accessories and the product itself are in high demand. The mate plant requires a warm climate at altitudes of up to 800 metres and relatively high humidity as well as moderate sunlight, which is why it is not easy to grow in our latitudes. In its home countries of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, about 50% of mate is still harvested from wild specimens.
The selection of the most important ingredients of mate tea earlier in this article has already shown you the benefits and special effects on the human organism. There is no question that many ingredients can be very valuable for humans. Basically, the effect of mate in appropriate quantities is not only harmless for most people, but even has a positive and stimulating effect.