What Does Yerba Mate Taste Like?

Yerba Mate has been growing more and more popular throughout the world. Having started in South America, it was a drink made traditionally in a gourd. But what exactly does it taste like?

Everyone describes Mate a little differently, but the key flavors are strong, bitter, and earthy. Some describe it as having hints of tobacco flavor, while others describe it as a camphor or eucalyptus taste. 

Almost everyone agrees that it is a drink people usually have to acquire a taste for. Like strong coffee or dry wine, it is one that takes practice to truly appreciate. 

The Flavors of Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate is thought of as an acquired taste. It has a unique flavor, unlike most other teas. Mate is bitter and earthy, with a hint of a eucalyptus-like flavor. If you’ve ever smelled Vicks, it would compare it to that, but a lot milder. If you’ve ever had green pu-erh tea, it is most similar to that out of all other teas.

Since it is made from a plant different from the traditional teas, Camellia sinensis, it is considered an herbal tea. 

When I first tried it, my initial impression was that it tasted like tea, if tea was made from grass and not leaves. 

What Gives Yerba Mate its Flavor

Yerba Mate is made from a South American plant that shares the same name (Ilex paraguariensis). The leaves of this plant are used to make tea and are sometimes used to make medicines. This is similar to nettle tea in the fact that it makes a great drink and has medicinal qualities. 

This is the only item traditionally put in Yerba Mate, and it is what gives the tea all of its flavors. 

Is Yerba Mate Bitter

Mate is quite bitter. It is known to be a drink that takes some time to get used to. However, while it is naturally bitter, proper preparation can reduce the bitterness. 

Unlike teas, Mate is traditionally steeped with the leaves continuously. In South America, it is traditionally drunk from a gourd with a straw, and the leaves in the tea are very important. 

Outside of South America, where it is touted as a health drink, many people don’t bother to keep the leaves in and instead steep the leaves like traditional tea. 

Most people say they steep it for only a minute, and never bring the water up to boiling. This is the best way to reduce bitterness. Just don’t expect it to not be bitter at all. 

Is Yerba Mate Sweet

Yerba Mate has a strong earthy taste, and for this reason, it is not considered a sweet tea. It is actually on the opposite end, usually falling into similar flavor categories like coffee and black tea. 

Does Yerba Mate Have Caffeine

Yerba Mate’s caffeine level is higher than that of teas, though less than that of coffee. Traditionally, Mate is drunk throughout the day for a burst of energy, similar to how we treat coffee. 

If your coffee is giving you just a little too much caffeine throughout the day, or you want to try something different, give Mate a try. It can even be made with cream and sugar, or however you take your coffee. 

Does Yerba Mate Taste Like Coffee

Mate is more similar to espresso than coffee, considering how strong and bitter the taste is. If you tend to go for stronger coffee, the flavor might be right up your alley. 

However, like with strong coffee, it is an acquired taste that does take some getting used to. But if you like bitter, it is something worth trying. 


Mate is a great drink for dark coffee lovers to try. It has the rich, bitter taste that comes from coffee, along with health benefits and a lower amount of caffeine while still providing a boost to your energy. Though it is technically an herbal tea, the flavor profile is very different. Instead of mild, delicate flavors, it has an earthy, bitter taste that may require several tries to truly enjoy.