A man pours hot water into a gourd held by a young woman.

Written by on May 13, 2013

Yerba mate for the world!

What’s green, full of caffeine, and on a mission to rebuild the rainforest? Our Guayaki! Science Cafe guests will tell you, it’s yerba mate!

Last week Cal Poly Science Cafe hosted Ana Yazdi and Michael Newton of Guayaki, who shared this traditional South American beverage with us, as well as its health benefits and the company’s mission to use Guayaki’s success to give back to the environment. They shared hot and cold beverages with the community, and their business model of working with native people in South America to harvest mate sustainably.

“There are hundreds of different mate companies in South America,” Ana told more than 70 attendees. “Unfortunately, most of them are cutting down the rainforest.”

A man and woman with mics on stand in front of a table of gourds and yerba mate bottles talking about their beverage.

Ana and Michael of Guayaki shared the plant’s nutritional benefits, as well as the benefits of using “market-driven restoration” to rebuild the rainforest.

Guayaki, though, works with native people like the Aché, to harvest yerba mate that grows in the balanced rainforest ecosystem, Michael and Ana explained. Money then goes to support the Aché people and restore the rainforest. To top it off, the drink is balanced in nutrients and provides a calmer energy than traditional coffee, Ana said.

The tea company is a Cal Poly favorite, since it was founded in San Luis Obispo in 1996, by students Alex Pryor and David Karr. Michael was also involved early. He started with the company as an intern, graduated from Cal Poly in 1997, and has been with the company ever since.

As part of the event, students were able to pose questions and even have one-on-one time with Michael and Ana. Wine and viticulture student Stephanie Jordeson was delighted that Michael showed her how to pack a traditional gourd of yerba mate. Stephanie switched to drinking yerba mate because she preferred it to coffee, and bought a gourd several years ago.

“I was really pleased that they were able to show me how to pack it right then and there,” Stephanie said.

More about the Guayaki! event is at Kennedy Library. There are also lots of great photos from the event on our Flickr. The Mustang Daily was there, too and journalism student Allison Montroy wrote up the story.

Check out Guayaki’s site for more on their mission.

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