Yerba Mate vs. Coffee: Which Is Better?

In the ever-raging debate of the best morning pick-me-up, the two leading contenders are coffee, the beloved staple, and yerba mate, a traditional South American drink. Both possess unique qualities, yet the question remains: which is better? 

In this exploration, we’ll pit yerba mate against coffee and provide insights to help you decide.

Yerba mate vs. coffee

What Is Yerba Mate?

Yerba mate is a traditional drink steeped in the culture of South America. Originally consumed by indigenous Guarani people, this beverage is made from the dried leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant, a species of holly native to South America. The leaves are often dried over a fire, creating a unique, robust flavor. Consumed hot or cold, yerba mate is a revered communal drink shared among friends and family. It is as much a cultural ritual as it is a beverage.

The Differences Between Yerba Mate and Coffee

While yerba mate and coffee may seem similar, they offer different experiences in terms of taste, caffeine content, and health benefits.


The taste of yerba mate can vary greatly depending on whether the leaves have been smoked or unsmoked. Smoked yerba mate often has a strong, bold flavor with an earthy, slightly bitter undertone, similar to certain types of tea. Unsmoked yerba mate is milder and smoother, with a gentle sweetness and vegetal notes, making it more approachable to newcomers. 

On the other hand, coffee typically offers a rich, full-bodied taste with varying degrees of acidity and bitterness, depending on the type and roast of the beans.

Caffeine Content

When it comes to caffeine content, both yerba mate and coffee can deliver that much-needed morning jolt. However, the amount of caffeine in yerba mate is usually less than that of coffee. While a standard 8-ounce cup of coffee contains around 95 milligrams of caffeine, the same amount of yerba mate typically has about 78 milligrams. This difference makes yerba mate a viable alternative for those looking to reduce their caffeine intake without sacrificing the stimulating effect.

Health Benefits and Side Effects

Both yerba mate and coffee offer numerous health benefits, with some overlap and some distinct differences. 

Coffee is well-known for its antioxidant properties. It has been linked to improved cognitive function and a lowered risk of certain diseases, like type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

On the other hand, yerba mate is not just a caffeine delivery system but is also packed with nutrients. It contains almost all vitamins necessary for sustaining life, along with numerous minerals. Some studies suggest that yerba mate can aid in weight loss, improve heart health, and stimulate the immune system.

However, as with most things, moderation is crucial. High consumption of smoked yerba mate has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, especially when consumed at very high temperatures. Likewise, excessive coffee consumption can lead to side effects like jitteriness, insomnia, and digestive problems.

Is Yerba Mate Better Than Coffee?

Deciding whether yerba mate is better than coffee ultimately depends on personal preference. Yerba mate offers a unique taste, lower caffeine content, and an impressive nutritional profile. However, coffee is more widely available, often cheaper, and provides a quick, strong caffeine hit that many rely on.

Best Yerba Mate to Try

We’ve sampled many yerba mate teas, from robust to mild (suitable for beginners), both smoked and unsmoked, hailing from Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. If you’re seeking some great options, these are the best yerba mate teas on the market that can cater to a variety of taste preferences.

Final Thoughts

The debate between yerba mate and coffee is subjective and depends on what you’re looking for in your beverage. Whether it’s the robust and invigorating taste of coffee or yerba mate’s unique, nutritious profile, both drinks have their own appeal. The best way to make a decision? Sample both and see which one aligns with your taste and health preferences. Either way, you’ll enrich your palette with two of the world’s most beloved beverages.

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