Yerba Mate: Tam’s Drink


Graphic by Anika Kaplan

By Emma Pearson

For some it’s a hot latte, for others it’s a cool glass of lemonade, but there is only one drink that is enough of a delicacy to satisfy the refined palettes of Tamalpais High School students: the Yerba Mate. As flavors span from Enlightenmint to Sparkling Cranberry Pomegranate, “all-natural” caffeine levels vary from light all the way to mighty, it is no wonder that these refreshing yet elegant potions have become the drink of choice for many a Tam attendee. Better known to most Tam connoisseurs as “Yerbs,” the beverage is an energy infusion brewed from lush, earthy mate leaves, leaving each flawlessly crafted vessel with 80-150 grams of caffeine (not recommended for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or sensitive individuals). Yerb Country (Sebastopol, California), is home to beautiful, sweeping hillsides of factory plants where the handcrafted yellow cans are produced and delicately transported, so that they may age to perfection on Miller Avenue Safeway’s tallest shelf. Crisp, yet slightly toasty (as they are rarely refrigerated), charming yet enigmatic, and seated at the centerplace of faultless crystal purity and balance, Yerba Mates have gone far too long without a critique (or, rather, an advocation) considering their captivation of the students of Tam High.

We begin with the classics: the large, 15-ounce golden yellow cans of Enlightenmint, Bluephoria, Revel Berry, Lemon Elation, and Orange Exuberance are household names. Familiar, yet rare to disappoint, each receptacle contains 150 milligrams of caffeine (“mighty” tier) and bursts with nuanced, character-infused flavors. Rustic and robust, playing alongside a pungent floral aroma, these Yerbs house flavor notes of mint, citrus zest, berry bouquet, currents, pine needles, and a touch of graphite, and denote aggressively fruit-forward (containing 1 percent juice per can). Cedery and complex, these Yerbs pair perfectly with a bag of Takis or Flaming Hot Cheetos (Limón flavor), and perhaps Sour Patch Watermelons to cleanse afterward. Notably, Yerba Mate released their 25th anniversary flavor with the same can size and caffeine tier, the 2021 vintage known as Tropical Uprising. Encased in the iconic golden yellow can (with pink accenting), this refreshing Yerb has notes of mango, pineapple, a hint of hibiscus, and stevia. Some Yerb critics feel the new brew lacks tone and texture, however, this arbiter of taste is partial to the leaves and thinks that, paired with a Good Earth scone or Whole Foods cookie, the subtle flavor elements of Yerba Mate’s newest release is divinely yet quietly distinct, highly palatable, and even more underappreciated.

Migrating to the less caffeinated, more aggressive line of carbonated Yerbs, Sparkling Grapefruit Ginger, Sparkling Classic Gold, Sparkling Cranberry Pomegranate are bubblies whose punching aromatics fall in line with their robust flavors. At 12 ounces and 80 grams of caffeine, they will hit the drinker with a crisp, fruity snap, and notes of agave, citrus, ginger root, grapefruit peel, and dirt. Exalted in their effervescence, the sublime assertiveness of these Yerbs are cause for celebration, their forceful fizziness making any drinker feel as though their third period marine biology class is a lavish party. It pairs well with pastries, sandwiches, and other meals strong enough to withstand the power of this vivacious line, but not diluted enough to try to battle their supreme, high-toned, and vigorous bite.

Traveling to our final destination, the smooth yet invigorating mate blend served in a 16-ounce glass bottle, an elegant finisher that is calming enough to transport you out of seventh period contemporary issues, and into a wildflower adorned field with a gurgling creekbed dottling alongside the tranquil expanse. With 70 milligrams of caffeine terrés entitled, mint, passion, raspberry, and traditional, these translucent potions vary in color, from a hazelnut-mocha brown to a burnt-penny orange. The warmed clay, petrified lemon, and rose hip aromatics of these complex beverages blend easily with their alkaline, honey, leaf must, and assorted fruit notes creating a silky liquid that ends with a velvet flowery finish. 

Regardless of whether the Yerb is of the original, bubbly, or translucent variety, one thing rings true about every brew: the elixir contains the revered potency of coffee, benefits of tea, the rare euphoria of chocolate, as well as status that reigns supreme in the minds of Tam students.