Guayakí Becomes First Fair Trade-Certified Yerba Mate

bombilla and gourd for yerba mate tea

If someone stopped you on the street and asked you to name the national drink of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay would you:

A) Look at them funny and ask, “What is a Paraguay?”
B) Answer, “Coffee,” because how else do people function?
C) Proudly grab a gourd and silver bombilla from your bag?

If you answered C, then you already know about the popularity of Yerba Mate (pronounced mah-taay) tea throughout South America. And you probably also know about the health benefits of mate and that it boasts 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids and has more antioxidants than green tea. But what you may not know is that Guayakí, the Sebastopol, California-based yerba mate purveyor has just become the first company in the world to offer fair trade certified yerba mate through the Fair for Life certification program.

When I was first introduced to Guayakí a few years back I was immediately struck by the company’s obvious social and ecological conscience. From certified Attention to the triple bottom line of sustainability and building a restorative business model around rainforest-grown mate have been the driving components that make Guayakí stand out from the rest. The company’s mission is to steward and restore 200,000 acres of South American rain forest and create 1,000 living wage jobs by 2020.

“When people purchase Guayakí Yerba Mate, they are buying a product that adheres to the highest environmental and sustainable business practices,” said Chris Mann, chief executive officer for Guayakí, whose teas are USDA certified organic and now fair trade certified.

guayaki Since its founding in 1996, Guayakí has been paying more than double the commodity price directly to small-scale farmers and responsible growers for its yerba mate.

“Being the first to establish fair trade certification for our yerba mate reflects our dedication to the quality of our product, our environment and the yerba mate farmers and artisans in South America,” said Mann.

The folks at Guayakí were kind enough to send me some samples including a bag of their San Mateo loose leaf mate along with Traditional and Greener Green Tea bags (for those who don’t have their own “bombilla,” a silver straw that filters out the leaf pieces without the need for a tea bags). Guayakí also offers bottled versions of their drinks at your local natural food store.

While there are all kinds of ways to brew and serve mate, my personal favorite is to drink it over ice with a squeeze of lemon. In the summer months I will brew a large batch of tea and let it steep in a gallon jug on the counter. After it cools somewhat I will add a good squeeze of lemon juice and store it in the refrigerator. I then have a jug of tea that I can grab at any thirsty moment and pour over a glass of ice (Tip: if you can’t wait for your liquid to cool before pouring over ice, add a metal spoon to the glass full of ice cubes, it will absorb a lot of the heat from the warm tea). Another technique I have used is to cold-brew the tea in a jug full of ice cubes and water.

Either way, I find additional value in my bulk-brewing and refridgerating process because it uses less energy than would brewing water for each and every cup. The gallon jug also takes up space in the fridge, cooling it and helping it run more efficiently during those summertime months of peak energy demand.

Image: tracyshaun via flickr under Creative Commons license

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