Could Yerba Mate Be The New Hard Seltzer?

In recent years, hard seltzer has taken over the adult beverage world as the refreshingly carbonated drink of choice for many summertime imbibers. But a new variety of hard beverage with age-old roots is angling to make a dent in hard seltzer's market one can at a time. 

Recently, two brands of hard yerba mate have made their way into the carbonated beverage market with an aim to offer a new kind of canned booze with a healthful and energetic twist. Yerba mate is a caffeinated herbal tea — made from dried Ilex paraguariensis leaves derived from the holly tree, per Mountain Rose Herbs — that is native to the indigenous Guaraní community of modern-day Paraguay.

Relied on by many as a natural source of caffeine, yerba mate is a nutrient-rich beverage that offers a variety of health benefits. According to Healthline, the South American tea contains a variety of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and saponins, which help to lower cholesterol. Other benefits of yerba mate include increased energy, improved cardiovascular health, and heightened mental focus.

Matero notes that traditionally, yerba mate is consumed by steeping the tea leaves in hot water in a gourd before sipping it through a bombilla straw. But the tea has soared in popularity in recent years thanks in part to the widespread popularity of Guayakí Yerba Mate, which offers an easily sippable line of canned and bottled organic yerba mate in a variety of flavors.

Hard yerba mate aims to be a healthier alcoholic option

In an effort to tap into both yerba mate fans and hard seltzer lovers, San Diego-based brand Kové created a line of fermented hard yerba mate seltzers that marries organic ingredients with the caffeinated benefits of the tea, and a 5% ABV, which is typical of most beers and hard seltzers on the market. According to Josh Makler, co-founder and head brewer of the gluten-free beverage, "Kové Hard Yerba Mate was born from the desire to create a simple, transparent beverage with real ingredients and flavors, while amplifying the powerful qualities of yerba mate."

Made with a simple list of ingredients including sugar cane, yeast, herbs, and spices, Kové undergoes a fermentation process that involves seeping the tea leaves in hot water, adding raw sugar, cooling, and placing the mixture in a fermentation vessel with yeast and nutrients. After the fermentation process is complete, organic juices, spices, and herbs are added to create different flavors and the liquid is lightly carbonated. Kové is currently available in Passion Berry, Mango Colada, Mojito, and Lemonade Iced-Tea flavors.

While Kové has claimed the title of "world's first hard yerba mate brand," another California-based company is trying to get in on the ground floor of the hard yerba mate trend with their own variety of tea-infused booze.

Two California companies are putting hard yerba mate on the map

Yerbuzz, which is also headquartered in San Diego, has created their own line of hard yerba mate seltzers with a 5.5% ABV and flavors including Guava, Blueberry, and Passion Fruit. Made with no sugars or sweeteners, Yerbuzz utilizes organic yerba mate and other non-GMO ingredients to create a gluten-free seltzer imbued with the earthy flavor of the nourishing tea. 

Dan Nierman, the founder and CEO of Yerbuzz, previously worked in kombucha production and saw an opening in the alcoholic beverage market for a boozy yerba mate option. According to Pacific Sandiego, Nierman experimented with 25 trial batches and 160 flavor combinations before landing on the company's initial flavors. 

Although Yerbuzz and Kové are currently vying to be the top choice of the yerba mate-sipping masses, if the staggering number of hard seltzer brands is any indication, there should be plenty of business to go around for both buzzy beverages. While both Kové and Yerbuzz are currently only available in California, as the demand for refreshing hard beverages continues to boom, both of these boozy options are well-positioned to expand across the United States — and make hard yerba mate a household name while they're at it.