We've been recovering from one long weekend in Toledo while preparing for an exciting weekend in Cincinnati for Crafty Supermarket on Saturday, November 19th. We found some time to spotlight Chris, who started a new company that sells Yerba Mate and gourds called Yerba Vitality. What is yerba mate you ask? Yerba mate is a tea-like beverage made from the leaves of a species of holly. It can be drank warm or cold, has several health benefits, and is a great alternative to coffee and energy drinks. We had Chris tell us a little bit more about his product and new business.
How did you get started?
Yerba Vitality's story kind of starts back in 2009. In 2009, during my undergrad studies, I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was while there that I discovered yerba mate, this strange green stuff thrown in a cup and drank through a metal straw. When I first tried it, I didn't like it. It was very bitter, but I kept drinking it for some reason, and over time my palate adjusted to it and now I'm in love with it! I became a "matero" a mate drinker for whom drinking mate is a way of life. Fast forward a few years, I graduated and became a Spanish teacher, which I still am. I've always tried thinking of business ideas and ways to become an entrepreneur but nothing ever really stuck. Then in the spring of 2015, it just kind of hit me. Yerba mate is not only a passion of mine, but it's also a communal beverage, it is meant to be shared. My passion for yerba mate and my entrepreneurial spirit led to the creation of Yerba Vitality. After a year long process of sourcing yerba mate from agricultural co-ops who pay fair wages, support their local communities, do not use child labor and produce high quality, good tasting yerba mate that meets my standards, my company was finally ready to launch. It was in May of 2016 that I finally started, sold at my first craft/vendor show, and launched the website.
Are there health benefits from drinking yerba mate?
Yes! There are many health benefits to drinking yerba mate, many of which have been studied. The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society stated that "It is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value".
Yerba mate naturally contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids and more antioxidants than green tea. It also naturally contains caffeine, theophylline (a stimulant related to caffeine that is found in tea) and theobromine (a stimulant, relaxant and mood uplifter related to caffeine that is found in chocolate and wine). These three stimulants, called xanthines, working in tandem, provide a smooth, long-lasting increase in energy, mental energy and focus without the jitters and crash that coffee and energy drinks can cause. In addition to a boost in energy and alertness it is also relaxing, thanks to the theobromine and tannins.
There is a long list of the nutrients and compounds found in yerba mate along with the benefits on my website https://www.yerbavitality.com/pages/about-yerba-mate .
Do you create these blends yourself?
Yes, the different blends are handcrafted here in Ohio using proprietary formulas that I put together. The blends Consuelo & Florido are crafted with other herbs that have their own health benefits in addition to the benefits of yerba mate. You can find more information on the herbs in each blend on the product pages of my website.
Is your product organic?
I source it from agricultural co-ops in Argentina that support local farmers. They don't really have the same organic and fair trade certification processes that we have, the only labels that you will really find on yerba mate while in South America are ones that say "gluten free". Yerba mate is naturally gluten free, however it is required in many countries to list any and all potential allergens. Of the two co-ops that I source from, one was recently given a Certificate of Good Practices from the National Yerba Mate Institute in Argentina. Regarding being organic, yerba mate doesn't attract many pests, the consensus in Argentina is that pesticides are unnecessary and costly. I personally haven't had a chance to go to these co-ops, but that is something I would like to do.
Despite not officially being labeled fair trade or organic, I am very particular about where I source my ingredients from because it was very important to me to ensure the workers are paid fair wages, and child labor is not involved. The issue of child labor and fair treatment of people is incredibly important to me, which is why in August, Yerba Vitality officially partnered up with A21, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking.
Where can you be found?
The best place to purchase Yerba Vitality's products would be on my website: www.yerbavitality.com . I can also be found on Facebook and Instagram. You may occasionally find me at a vendor show or other similar type of market.
-Canton Gypsy Market on November 19th, 2016
-Love, Light & Healing Psychic Fair in Erie Pennsylvania on March 18, 2017
Thanks so much, Chris! Don't be afraid to try it for the first time, the flavor is not too different from some types of green tea. It certainly gives you a boost, and if you add a little sugar, I think it tastes pretty good. We're glad we got the chance to spread the word!
We have several new articles in the works, including a recap of our awesome weekend in Toledo!
-Shaun & Beth