February 1, 2012

Guayaki Organic Yerba Mate

This italic text is fancy blogger speak for "This is important.  My crediblity is on the line here."  The following blog is a product review, and I want you as readers to know that I was not paid or coerced to say things about said product.  I've considered paid product reviews as a way to supplement the tiny advertising income this blog generates, but would rather have the people who come here be able to take me seriously.

So now that we're past the long winded disclaimer, why am I reviewing Guayaki's line of yerba mate based products?  Simple answer.  My co-worker Palm Springs was on campus for his calculus class, where he was accosted by one of Guayaki's marketing reps. (Edit:  Guayaki contacted me after I initially posted this to let me know that they don't actually have reps.  The person Palm Springs met on campus was one of the founders, and they still travel around the country promoting their product themselves.)  They gave him a variety of products to try, all for free, with one caveat:  "If you like it," the spokesman said, "give us a shout out on Facebook."  Palm Springs brought the products home, and promptly gave them to me.  Over the last month, I have entered into a contract with Boy in which I have given up the use of energy drinks and he in turn has given up candy, so PS knew that I would appreciate an alternative.  When he gave me the drinks, he also gave me the demo guy's caveat, but I knew if I liked it I could go one better than Facebook.

If you are unfamiliar with yerba mate, it is a relative of the holly plant and grows freely in South America.  Its biggest exporter is Brazil, but its widest use is in Argentina, where the herb is found in roughly 95% of homes (Wikipedia.)  It is traditionally brewed like tea, and then drank from hollowed out gourds with special straws that filter out the loose mate leaves.  In the countries where it is most prominent, yerba mate outsells both coffee and tea, and is thought to be a perfect mixture of the two, combining the relaxing herbal presence of tea with the energy benefits of coffee.  Guayaki, the company that makes the products that ended up in my hands, was founded by an Argentine transplant named Alex and his university classmate David, who began to grow mate in  San Luis Obispo, California, between attending classes and surfing.  Soon, they had gathered a small group of partners and began spreading their love of yerba mate across America in vans.  In the sixteen years since Guayaki was founded, they have become a Fair Trade, USDA Organic, and Kosher certified non-profit who uses the money it makes to restore the rain forests of South America.  It's a good cause, but it wouldn't matter if the product wasn't good. 

Traditional Mate
The first of their products that I got to try was Traditional Mate, which comes in a glass bottle familiar to most tea drinkers.  They actually have a decent variety of bottled mates, including flavors like pomegranate and peach, but this was just lightly sweetened mate.  I enjoyed it, but the light touch on the sweetener meant that it has some of mate's natural bitterness; while I was OK with that, I could see it being just a touch sharp on some people's palates.  Apart from that it was cool, refreshing, and surprisingly stimulating for something that looks and mostly tastes like a tea.  I would definitely love to try flavors beyond Traditional Mate. 

Enlighten Mint
While I liked the bottled mate, I was really curious about their canned drinks, since that's why Palm Springs introduced me to Guayaki's products in the first place.  The three canned yerba mate beverages-Enlighten Mint, Revel Berry, and Lemon Elation-are not energy drinks, but they are clearly marketed at the same consumer.  The sample I ended up with was Enlighten Mint, and it was fantastic.  It had a very subtle spearmint flavor and a gentle touch of honey, just enough so that while you could clearly taste the mate underneath the natural bitterness I talked about in Traditional Mate was gone.  Really, mate seemed to be the perfect base for a drink this willing to have a slight hand with its flavoring, and it was a nice change of pace from other bottled teas like Arizona brand, which can just kill you with sweetness before you can even finish one.  Also,  I was impressed with the energy boost it gave me.  It didn't have quite the same kick as an energy drink; it was more akin to having a couple of cups of coffee.  However, it was clearly noticeable, and more importantly it left my system gradually; there was no harsh comedown as you can often get when drinking caffeinated drinks. 

Energy Shots

The last product I got to try was one of their energy shots.  Although this may have been cheating in regards to my contract with Boy, the fact that these don't contain any of the harsh chemicals contained in normal energy drinks made me decide that I could at least try one.  These little guys pack a punch, and they taste way better than normal energy shots, which are often flavored like the psychic hologram of future heartburn.  Unlike the bottled and canned drinks, which are slightly below coffee and energy drinks (respectively) in power, the Guayaki energy shot is just as, if not more, powerful than its chemical laden kin.  I got four solid hours of energy out of one of these, and again-no steep drop off. 

All in all, I was quite pleased with the taste and quality of Guayaki's products, which is why I decided to write this post instead of merely making an aside on Facebook.  I'm gradually making my way to a state of drinking almost entirely water, but when I do need a canned or bottled pick me up that doesn't make me feel guilty, I'll hunt out Guayaki.  If you are interested, you can find their store locator here.


  1. What does boy get out of his contract for no candy? And does he get substitute treats?

    1. Well, I didn't want to spell out the specifics in the blog for fear of slowing down the flow of the review, but he is allowed chocolate still, and I am still allowed coffee. If he eats candy, he owes me two hours of chores. If I drink an energy drink, I owe him ten dollars.

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