Mate? (12 nov 2008)

The other day I was searching around on the web for information about yerba mate and I came across some troubling news. We all know that for a long time the herb has been touted as a kind of wonder food, full of nutrients and anti-oxidants, and has been rising in popularity in this country as an attractive, healthy alternative to coffee as an energy booster. But apparently, there are some sources that are increasingly making the claim that regular mate ingestion significantly increases the risk of certain cancers, particularly that of the mouth and throat. Proponents of the yerba argue that any statistical rise in throat cancer among mate drinkers is more likely due to excessively hot temperature rather than in the yerba itself. But at least one study that did some chemical analysis on several different brands of yerba claims that, though the figures vary widely from brand to brand, the yerba contains a significant amount of certain chemical compounds known as PAHs, which are carcinogenic.

At this point I figure the data is still pretty sketchy, but I think it's a good idea to be aware of the potential for risk and keep attuned as more research is done, and in the meantime enjoy mate in moderation, which is no problem for me. While I like mate very much, I wouldn't describe myself as a habitual drinker. I'll make a batch only a few times a week, and only drink about two to three infusions at a time. I suppose that's well within the range of safety.

As long as I'm on the subject, I'd like to mention some of the yerbas I've tried over the years. My overall favorite is the special blend variety of Rosamonte, which is a brand known for its particularly strong flavor. The special blend has a kind of velvety undertone that almost makes me think of dark chocolate. Another one that I've really liked is Taragui without stems, which has a richer flavor than the stemmed variety. There's a heartiness about it that reminds me a little of fresh baked bread. However, for some reason it seems that Taragui sometimes doesn't agree with my system too well, so I'm starting to shy away from the brand for a while. Most recently, I bought a bag of Amanda. I've only made one batch so far but my initial impression is that it tastes similar to Taragui but softer. It's a very easy one to drink, so I'm happy with it. I've definitely had some that I wasn't so crazy about. One in particular, which I can't remember the name of, was an organic brand that I got for free. I just remember it came in a white bag and tasted terrible, like someone had pulled weeds from their backyard and ground it into yerba.

Anyway, if anyone wants to share some of their thoughts on mate, I'd be interested in hearing about it :)

No comments: