A Journey to the Yerba Mate Source Posted on 1 Mar 09:54 , 6 comments
The year was 2001. We were running our new yerba mate business out of the living room of a tiny house in southern Oregon. We had a handful of accounts and a small but enthusiastic local following. We were blending tea by hand in our backyard.
And then our domestic yerba mate supplier suddenly went out of business.
With supplies running short, we scraped up enough money to buy a plane ticket for Stefan Schachter, our company founder, to fly down to South America and tour the yerba mate region in search of an organic grower.
Stefan traveled all over Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. "Organic" wasn't really a thing down there yet. While he was welcomed with open arms wherever he went, he had trouble finding a certified organic yerba mate grower.
Nearing the end of his stay, Stefan had one last idea. He visited a natural food store in Buenos Aires and bought a half-kilo bag of organic yerba mate off the shelf. He went to the nearest payphone and called the number on the back of the bag.
A twelve hour bus ride later, he found himself sharing a mate with his future friend and business partner Johnny. Stefan was immediately impressed by the rich flavor and potency of Johnny’s yerba mate.
“We do not dry our yerba mate with smoke,” Johnny explained. “My grandfather actually developed a unique system that boils water and sends it through coils, and uses fans to blow air over the coils, and the yerba is on a conveyor belt above the fans, and… You will have to come see for yourself.”
They headed out to the farm down a long dirt road as twisting and bumpy as a riverbed. With a background in sustainable agriculture and a lifelong appreciation for nature, Stefan fell in love with the farm right away. The air was alive with birds and butterflies. Native forest corridors surrounded sections of well-tended yerba mate groves. The family welcomed him into their home and treated him as family.
That night, as they sipped the local iced yerba mate treat known as terere and watched fireflies dance above the yard, Johnny explained to Stefan, “Our farm has always been organic. We love this land. It is our home.”Fifteen years later, we are still going strong. Thank you Johnny for believing in us, and thanks to your family for growing the best yerba mate in the world!