UNSMOKED Yerba Mate?
Traditionally, yerba mate was dried with smoke. The freshly-harvested leaves were piled into a hut that had a smoky fire lit in its center. A worker would actually go into the smoke hut wearing a wet bandana around their mouth and nose, and turn the leaves over with a pitchfork. Yerba mate dried in this way had a characteristic smoky taste that many people still associate with the herb. Some people really love this taste. Many others do not.
Recently, there has been some suggestion that drinking large quantities of smoke-dried yerba mate might not be good for you. There are byproducts in all smoked foods called PAH’s. These byproducts have been linked with many health issues, including some forms of cancer. So, if you are drinking yerba mate for its promise of healthy energy, you probably want to find a source that dries their yerba mate with 100% warm clean air instead of smoke.
Another issue regarding smoke is ecological. All the firewood to produce this smoke has to come from somewhere. Local sources of firewood in the yerba mate region have been depleted. Nowadays, most of the firewood is getting trucked in from a distant area of Argentina called the Gran Chaco. The Gran Chaco is experiencing rapid deforestation as a result of growing demand for yerba mate.
Nowadays, you hear the word “Air-Dried” a lot. Some companies talk about using a smoke-free secondary drying process, while they still flash-heat the herb with open flame and smoke in a primary flash-heating process.
At ECOTEAS, we coined the term “UNSMOKED” to describe our own organic family farm’s exclusive smoke-free 2-stage yerba mate drying process. Working together with an Argentine university and a fair trade development fund, we were able to create a unique drying system on our farmer’s land that uses natural gas instead of firewood. The system is far more efficient and clean than any other technology that is currently available. We flash heat the herb with hot air. Then we slow-dry it with warm air. Both stages are 100% smoke-free.