Yerba Mate vs Kombucha: What’s the Difference?

Yerba mate
Yerba mate and kombucha have risen in popularity in recent years. They are both tea-based drinks with numerous health benefits. However, many notable differences set these drinks apart, including their origins, taste, caffeine content, and more.

What Is Yerba Mate?

Yerba mate is a tea drink made from the leaves of the South American bush Ilex paraguariensis. This bush is native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. Like other tea, yerba mate is made by steeping the tea leaves. It can also be made by grinding the leaves after they are dried.

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Yerba mate

Traditionally yerba mate (or ‘mate’) is served in a hollow Calabash gourd with a metal straw called a bombilla. The straw has a filter at the lower end to strain out the leaf pieces. Yerba mate is enjoyed among friends who take turns sipping the tea through the straw.

Yerba mate has become mainstream, and you can find the Guayaki brand of this tea drink in many American grocery stores. It has an earthy flavor, but many varieties sold in supermarkets are sweetened or flavored. Guayaki sells unsweetened, low-sugar, sparkling, and loose-leaf yerba mate. Popular flavors include passion, raspberry, and blackberry mint.

Health Benefits

Yerba mate has antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and many vitamins and minerals. It has been known to:

  • Boost the immune system and protect against infections from bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
  • Help increase energy levels and improve focus.
  • Provide the focus of caffeinated coffee—with about 80 mg of caffeine per cup—without the ‘caffeine jitters.’
  • Help regulate blood sugar.

In addition, yerba mate tea also includes small amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, polyphenols (antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of many diseases like heart disease), potassium, vitamins A, B, C, and E, and zinc.

Yerba mate has been shown to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known carcinogens. PAHs are also found in grilled meat and tobacco smoke. The number of PAHs in yerba mate varies widely according to brand, so it may be possible to produce a yerba mate with very few PAHs in the future.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha tea is a fermented tea made from green or black tea, fermented with sugar. Kombucha tea originated in northeast China, though Russia and Japan also claim to have invented kombucha. It has been enjoyed for at least 200 years, if not more. The fermentation process requires a kombucha culture called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). This microbial culture produces a slightly sour, acidic tea that is slightly carbonated.

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SCOBY and kombucha tea

Kombucha is made from sweetened brewed tea that ferments with a SCOBY for a few days to a week. The resulting tea drink can be enjoyed plain, but most brewers put it through a second fermentation with fruit or other flavors. The longer the kombucha brews, the more carbonation it will contain. Because the kombucha culture resembles a mushroom, kombucha is sometimes called ‘mushroom tea.’

Kombucha is extremely popular in American supermarkets. Most stores sell several brands of kombucha. Popular flavors include ginger, lemon-ginger, berry, mint lime mojito, blackberry vanilla, and mango.

Health Benefits

Kombucha has many health benefits. Kombucha:

  • Contains antioxidants that may help protect against cancer.
  • Can kill bacteria—kombucha is rich in acetic acid, which may kill harmful microorganisms.
  • Is a source of probiotics—good bacteria that support a healthy gut.
  • May help control type 2 diabetes by managing blood sugar.
  • May reduce the risk of heart disease by helping manage cholesterol levels.

5 Main Differences When Comparing Yerba Mate vs Kombucha

Though yerba mate and kombucha have many things in common, they also have differences.

Yerba MateKombucha
~80 mg of caffeine per serving~15 mg of caffeine per serving
~28 g of sugar per serving~12 g of sugar per serving
Flat, not carbonatedCarbonated and fizzy
Typically costs between $3-4Typically costs between $5-6
Brewed teaFermented tea

Can You Use Yerba Mate for Kombucha?

Yes, you can use yerba mate to make kombucha. The process is similar to brewing regular kombucha, except that you use yerba mate tea leaves instead of black or green tea leaves. Just like when brewing kombucha, you also need a kombucha SCOBY, a bit of brewed kombucha, and sugar to make yerba mate kombucha (also called mate kombucha).

Yerba mate kombucha tastes subtle and mild. It is similar to kombucha brewed with green tea. Mate kombucha is also slightly bitter and may have hints of smokiness since the leaves are dried over a fire.

Yerba mate kombucha has the benefits of both yerba mate and kombucha. The tea contains antioxidants, probiotics, and microorganisms to support gut health. It also has essential vitamins and minerals.

Is Yerba Mate Better Than Kombucha for Weight Loss?

Yerba mate may support weight loss better than kombucha. Yerba mate has a higher caffeine content than kombucha.

Caffeine can raise your metabolism, leading to weight loss. Some commercial kombucha has added sweeteners, making it unhelpful for weight loss. More research is needed on yerba mate and kombucha to confirm each drink’s benefits and possible risks.

Sarah Pearce

Sarah first tried kombucha in 2015 and she was hooked. Her favorite flavor is ginger, but cranberry comes in a close second. She made her own for many years and loved experimenting with fruit flavors.

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