Yerba Mate, an Essential Item for UCSB Students

Illustration by Kianna Sparks / The Bottom Line

Madison Hallam
Staff Writer

Yerba. The Yerb. Mate. Whatever you call it, the product is the same: a drink made from the natural leaves of rainforest trees steeped in water: yerba mate. It is highly caffeinated. Forget coffee — at UCSB, yerba mate is the lifeblood of most students slaving away at the midnight hour.

Favian, who works at the Arbor, an on-campus convenience store across from the library, gave insight on this famed beverage in an interview with The Bottom Line. Favian revealed exactly how much effort it takes to ensure that students can get their Yerba fix whenever the withdrawal starts to kick in. To accommodate the crazed fans, the Arbor “gets a shipment of about 150 cases [1800 individual bottles] every week” to completely replenish their stock.

It is no question that UCSB students are connoisseurs, but what is it about this tea that makes it so desirable?

Part of the reason that yerba mate has such a grip on UCSB is because it’s labelled as healthy and natural.

Marina Sonn, a first year student and self-proclaimed yerba aficionado, explained that yerba mate is her favorite drink “because tea is better for you than coffee” and because you don’t get the same “crash” that you do from coffee.

There’s a reason that tea provides more beneficial, lasting effects than coffee. Tea contains more of a substance called theobromine, which is a stimulant that works effectively and gradually without inducing jitters because it doesn’t affect the central nervous system. The next time you step in line to order your $5 latte, consider saving your money and your attention span by opting for a tea-based beverage.

Additionally, part of the success of yerba mate is attributed to how the drink is marketed, Sonn said. “It’s a fairly natural energy drink” that is directed at college-aged students as a “healthier alternative to brands like Red Bull and Monster,” she said. Furthermore, Guayaki is the most popular yerba mate distributor in Isla Vista by a huge margin and has very recognizable packaging for its bottles.

A brand like this could not have emerged at a more perfect time. A growing desire amongst people for healthy consumables has coupled with disinterest for the traditional purveyors of “natural” caffeinated goods like Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee. A college campus, with a healthy mixture of youthful energy and disdain for the mainstream, has created the perfect atmosphere for yerba mate to flourish.

It makes sense why yerba has become so popular and why some would think it’s better for you than coffee, but it doesn’t make sense why Yerba is so popular at UCSB in particular. What makes our students much more drawn to this drink than most of the planet?

Maybe the healthy connotation of the brand, the colorful and carefree designs on the bottle, and the refreshing taste all come together to construct an image of health and of positive energy that appeals to UCSB students.