Yerba mate could be a polphenol plus for beverages

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Antioxidant, Coffee

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are
looking to target antioxidant properties from Mate tea for use as
functional beverage ingredients.

Mate or yerba mate (llex paraguariensis​) is a tea-like drink traditionally consumed in South American countries by pouring boiling water onto a high concentration of leaves. According to their published research, the Illinois researchers have shown yerba mate tea is a rich source of polyphenols.

Green tea extracts are already used in functional beverages for their antioxidant properties, but the leader of the Urbana-Champaign research believes mate tea could bring even greater functional benefits.

"The beverage industry can really take advantage of mate tea to add concentrated antioxidants to juices or teas,"​ Dr. Elvira de Mejia, assistant professor of food chemistry and food toxicology at Urbana-Champaign, told NutraIngredients-USA.

The recently published book "Hispanic Foods - Chemistry and Flavor", co-edited by Dr. de Mejia and Michael Tunick, looks at the bioactivity of ethnic foods south of the border.

"The bioactivity of​ mate tea is related to its phenolic constituents," it says. "It has been shown that mate​ tea has a higher antioxidant capacity than both green tea and Ardisia compressa​."

However, Dr. de Mejia's lab is taking research into yerba mate one step further by examining how concentrations of the tea can be used in mainstream drinks to give them functional properties.

A study published in "Hispanic Food" concludes: "This study revealed that​ mate tea contains a higher total polyphenol content and free radical scavenging capacity than both ardisia​ tea and hibiscus​ sabdariffa.

"In fact mate tea displayed an antioxidant capacity statistically the same as pure gallic (20mg/ml)."​Mate tea is drunk in very high contentrations in many Latin American countries as part of a daily social ritual, in which it is passed around amongst friends and coworkers. It has what is often often described as an "acquired"​ and earthy taste.

According to Dr. de Mejia, most Western teas are prepared at a concentration of 10g of leaves per litre, which mate tea is prepared at 50g per litre.

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