Sourcing our yerba mate

At Yuyo the origins of our ingredients matter: we choose organic not only because is it better for biodiversity, but also so we know exactly what’s infusing in your cup or gourd – no unwanted pesticides or herbicides.

We're particularly proud of the sourcing of our yerba mate, which is part of a sustainable, organic, permaculture project in Brazil. We work with Berlin and Brazil-based Meta Mate to ensure our mate is of the very best quality, with only the most positive impact on the place where it is grown and the people who live and work there.

Cultivation 

The cultivation and consumption of yerba mate is a way of life for many people in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Brazil in particular is also home to the majority of extant wild mate trees, mainly located in native forests. Unfortunately, in parts of the region these native forests are increasingly being swamped by 'deserts' of soya.

Much of the yerba mate consumed today comes from more modern plantations, younger forests established within recent years. Yuyo’s mate is grown by a family-owned business in organic certified sustainable plantations in Barão de Cotegipe in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, a small town completely surrounded by traditional mate growing areas.

Our yerba mate is planted in an agroforestry system, i.e. amongst other crops, pastureland and native plants, rather than as a mass monocultural crop like soya. Naturally shade-grown mate like this also has the benefit of reduced bitterness in terms of its flavour profile, as the plants undergo less stress. 

Production and harvesting

There are different ways to produce yerba mate, and Yuyo's partners Meta Mate work with some indigenous family producers that use craft, hand-harvesting methods that work in harmony with the natural wealth of the forest. 

Mate trees can grow several metres high, so harvesting it does require a head for heights! Pruning is done in such a way that the yerba mate tree is not harmed, but can continue to thrive and grow.

Once the branches and leaves are gathered, they are briefly passed over a fire overseen by the ‘Uru’, an honorific title held by the person responsible for tending the flames to dry the mate. This process, known as ‘sapeco’ is an essential step in the yerba’s transformation from ordinary holly leaf to ‘mate’ ready to drink, preventing it from breaking down and giving the mate its distinct flavour, comparable to the roasting process in coffee.

Our particular yerba mate is processed in accordance with organic certification requirements using industrial methods that replicate indigenous artisanal mate production on a larger scale. The 'sapeco' is still a flash exposure to lower smoke, before the leaves are dried on a conveyor belt, seasoned and milled to create a green loose leaf product that can be consumed straight from a gourd, or blended into Yuyo infusions.

Next steps: protecting the Paraná

Yuyo is proud to work with Meta Mate, because we share a vision of yerba mate agriculture and commercialisation acting as a positive force for the environment and people who live in the region. Meta Mate embarks on a range of initiatives, from supporting autonomous farmers to register and work legally, to improving working conditions for those working in the mate industry and facilitating reforestation projects, helping to revert soya production areas to their original mate forests.

Meta Mate specialises in sourcing artisanal craft mate directly from small family producers who have wild harvested mate from the pristine forests that surround them for generations. We have some way to go before their yerba mate can be certified as organic, but Yuyo is aiming to collaborate with Meta Mate on this as a longer term project. We both want to protect the trees of the Paraná from suffering the same fate as many others in South America, being cut down to make space for soya or eucalyptus plantations.

By buying Yuyo, you can contribute to this aim.

Fair Trust: transparency for farmers and consumers

Aware of the difficulties for small-scale producers in certifying their product, Meta Mate has developed a system that they call 'Fair Trust'. It is about open dialogue from farmers right through to consumers, and a commitment to complete transparency about the origins, processing and financial side of yerba mate production. It recognises that small producers often meet all of the criteria for organic and fair trade, but also need the autonomy to thrive by working for themselves, rather than a large corporation. To find out more about this developing certification model, visit Meta Mate and feel free to get in touch.