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Processing Yerba Mate

The drying process has two steps:

1. Dehydrating the leaves. This process is achieved through fire. It only takes 20 to 30 seconds. This is done to stop the natural oxidation and fermentation process of the plant. If the heat that is used is excessive, the leaves will have a yellow color and would affect the final taste. The proper heat is very important. In this process the leaves lose 20% of their weight. 

 2. Drying the leaves. Traditionally there were two ways of drying – direct, when the heat of the fire goes directly to the leaves, and indirect, when the heat reaches the leaves through a tunnel under the earth, this being actually a smoking process. Both ways used nowadays using gas or wood and modern equipment.

The next process is where the leaves are roughly milled right alter the drying. Afterwards they are put in jute sacks (natural fiber) which are marked with the date and the origin location. This type of yerba is called "CANCHADA". This is the name yerba mate is given when it is grossly crushed right alter the drying process.  It still needs to be processed in the mill.

The next process is where the yerba mate is left to age for a minimum of six months. This is VERY IMPORTANT in order to get a top quality yerba. Organic and small farm producers usually let this process last more than a year, sometimes even two. 

The final step is the milling. Through a sifting process done by specialized machinery the aged yerba is separated from its content of twigs, leaves and sticks or stems. The yerba is then blended in the proper proportions each brand has. Some may have more sticks, leaves or powder than others.

There are two distinct kinds of flavors in yerba mate according to the drying process: smoked and unsmoked. 

On the other hand, we have two types of yerba mate according to its grinding; with or without stems or sticks. Most brands use the variety "with sticks" (con palo). Few brands have the "w/o sticks" (sin palo) version available.

So, basically there are six commercial types of yerba mate:  Elaborada con Palo (w/stems) -  Elaborada sin Palo o Despalada  (w/o stems) - Barbacuб (Smoked) - Tostada (Roasted) -  Flavored & Mixed with Herbs.

WITH STEMS (ELABORADA CON PALO): Is the yerba mate that contains no less than 65% dehydrated ground leaves and no more than 35% of stems. Generally they are mild because of the big percentage of stems or sticks.

WITHOUT STEMS (DESPALILLADA, DESPALADA o SIN PALO): It contains no less than 90% of finely dehydrated leaves and no more than 10% of stems. This type of yerba is stronger due to their larger quantity of leaves and fewer amount of stems. There is no such thing as a yerba completely 100% without stems even though the package says so. There will always be a very small amount that is impossible to be removed during the processing.

SMOKED (BARBACUБ ): these yerba mate have a strong and delicious aroma and a woody taste. Sometimes you may find some yerba mate that claim to be "UNSMOKED". By definition all yerba mate that have not been dried using the barbacuб system are unsmoked.

ROASTED (TOSTADA): When the yerba leaves are roasted they generally have a sweeter flavor and a kind of a "chocolate" after taste.

FLAVORED YERBA MATE:  Yerba mate with different flavors microencapsulated into the tea which sometimes also includes bits of the fruit itself. The flavors are essential oils derived from the fruits.

MIXED WITH HERBS: Yerba mate with different natural herbs mixed into it.