PRODUCTION, HARVESTING, AND PROCESSING ORGANIC YERBA MATE
The process is complex. It begins with the sowing of seeds which are harvested in March and April. When they’re mature they are cleaned. The baby maté plants grow up in a protected nursery with fertile soil and the proper moisture and temperature. After some months later the plant reaches 20 centimeters (approximately 8”).The small plants are then transported to the farm.
The yerba mate harvest begins in April-May and lasts until October. During this period the plant decreases the circulation of its sap and has a higher percentage of mature leaves.
According to the organic recommendations for production the manures and weed control must be mechanical without using chemicals. This insures that no microorganisms or agrotoxin are transferred into your body thus enabling a safe and healthy product for you. In particular, organic agriculture is intended to produce high quality, nutritious food that contributes to your healthcare and well-being. In view of this fertilizers, pesticides, animal drugs, and food additives are avoided so there will be no adverse health effects. Yerba Mate will be mature and harvested in about three years. Five or six years later the plant is ready for full production. After maturing it can be harvested once a year for about 30 more years. The harvesting consists of two steps :
1- ”Viruteo”: Mate is harvested by hand. Only the leaves and tender stems are picked. Each year the mate tree regenerates and produces more leaves leaving the older leaves of the plant to help protect the new growth from freezing or extreme heat (March – July). After the freezing season is over the plant will have new growth.
2- “Descopado”: After the mate is harvested it is wrapped in a 2 X 2 meter (6 ½ ft X 6 ½ ft) linen cloth to enable it to be weighed and transported.
Following the guidelines of organic certification each bag of mate is weighed and labeled with the section of the farm from which it came, the date, and all relevant information. They then transport the freshly harvested maté to the drying tube. The first step consists of passing the yerba mate leaves through the sopecadora process or flash-drying process. The “sopecadora” is constructed of a long tube with a fire at the beginning of it. As the tube spins, it creates a vacuum, and pulls air and mate leaves through it.
This flash-heating process stops the oxidation of the mate and preserves the medicinal and nutritional properties of the leaf. After about 20 seconds, the mate comes out of the other side of the tube. The majority of the moisture is extracted during this step.
After that follows another drying process which lasts 14 hours at 70ºC (158ºF).
It is then cancheada or cut into 1 – 2 centimeters (3/8” to ¾”) and bagged into jute bags for the aging process. Jute provides a consistent quality and flavor. It also acts as a natural insect repellant. The mate stays in the aging chamber for 18 months or more.
The mate is then inspected and sampled throughout the aging process. Normally the aging process for the organic yerbas are much longer than the regular ones therefore the flavor and aroma are better. It also makes the yerba mate less acidic.
ORGANIC YERBA MATE has no agrotoxins or pesticides and is all natural. To control the grass, which is not good for the plant, sheep are sometimes used to graze.
Even though the prices for organic tea are higher, most people prefer the organic because of the health properties and it is better for the environment.
The packaging material that is used with the organic teas is organic in itself. The paper that is used is recycled and biodegradable. The ink is water based.
Organic yerbas are not as easily found as the regular ones in Argentina. This is mainly because they are sold in specialty and health food stores. The producers of organic yerba maté are very small companies.