A New Hybrid Yerba Emerges
Brazilian erva mate with the cut of Argentine yerba and the addition of mind and body enhancing acai and guarana makes for a complex and intriguing journey of Amazonian flavors with a modern twist. A versatile medicinal blend with great latitude of icy cold to hot waters and everything in between, this yerba begs you to find your perfect temperature. Cooler waters show bright and zesty fruit with a touch of sourness. Warmer waters quickly change currents to strong, robust and even overwhelming choppy bodies of rich earth and subdued fruit. Either way, Yacuy continues to offer some of the most innovative yerva-erva coming out of the Southern Cone.
In late 2021 Yacuy released a small collection of unsmoked “Pure Leaf and Stems” yerba mates. Two flavors: Acai and Guarana and Anise and Chamomile. Today we’ll discuss the former, but first let’s straighten things out a bit.
Yacuy already has a range of what they refer to as “Tereré” blends. These blends are fruit-forward with a wide range of zesty-tart flavors. What makes them tereré blends, in their perspective, is the Argentine cut with chopped medium leaves, stems and, most importantly, the inclusion of explosive herbs that are easily tamed with cool water.
Now if we head south to Argentina, such blends would never be called “tereré”. They would be understood as “blended yerba” or “hierbas serranas” — that’s all. Step into Paraguay with the same blends, and, certainly, they would be considered tereré, neatly fitting into the existing paradigm of drinking cold yerba mate with zesty herbs.
So what we have here is Yacuy, pinned directly between Argentina and Paraguay, offering a line of highly versatile blends that may be interpreted in numerous ways: drink hot, drink cold, drink with warm water, add ice, whatever you’d like.
Effectively, this allows Yacuy to extend their reach into the Argentine, Paraguay, and perhaps most importantly, the United States markets, allowing them to compete alongside the homegrown yerba mate companies there.
The packaging lacks a single clear direction of what the product actually is. We see “unsmoked”, “green yerba mate” “yerba mate leaves & stems”, “enjoy hot or cold” “terere”, “chimarrão” etc… all within a space of several inches.
Better to get rid of this outdated and highly confusing term “tereré” and just market this as a blended yerba mate, enjoyed hot or cold. Simple. Done. Easy. But the maximalist Brazilian design philosophy won’t allow for such simplicity, sadly.
Marketing and design issues notwithstanding, I can see this new collection of hybrid yerbas doing well in Europe and the United States, as the beautiful packaging is in both Portuguese and English. And with the growing concern surrounding “unsmoked” vs “smoked” yerba mate, this unsmoked version will certainly attract the more health-conscious Matero.
Yacuy is undoubtedly on top of their game, seemingly taking risks above and beyond other erva companies in Brazil, and, to a larger extent, than most yerba mate companies in the world.
And that says, particularly when you look at the erva and yerba industry as a whole, which has shown a snail-like propensity to innovate and expand beyond their own hyper-local markets. Yacuy is on the forefront of yerba-erva innovation in Brazil and could one day rival Argentina’s Las Marias in their scope of influence and global output.
Now, with the tropical additions of guarana and acai along with star anise, hibiscus, mint and stevia we have a beautiful blend with unique flavors not typically found in yerbas of the Southern Cone. This is a complex blend that is more medicinal than flavorful when consumed alone with hot water in the 170ºF, 76ºC range.
The guarana offers a clean energizing and clarifying effect. Hibiscus and mint and a sour-zesty complex. Star anise warms things up with a touch of spice. The acai adds elements of purple fruit punch and rich currant florals. And the Brazilian erva adds, as always, malty earth for a solid body.
There’s a lot going on here. Perhaps, too much!
When consumed alone, there is muddling of flavors and no clear direction of profile. A touch of honey easily fixes this issue, but the blend would fare better with more of direction, perhaps adding more fruit and less erva to better command a tropical thrust. The richness of erva smothers any chance for the fruit to shine, which should have been highlighted, not obscured.
When drunk with cold to room temperature water, we may now experience much desired clarity and strong direction, as the florals, tarts, and berries jubilantly breathe through the dark and robust erva, finally achieving a gorgeous harmony that begs me to come back for more of this multi-personality yerba that’s a bit finicky but easily assuaged with a tad of sweetness or cooler waters.