A viral video recently making the rounds on social media shook some yerba mate lovers in Argentina to their core after showing that almost half of what comes in the bag is, well, dust.
A few days ago, YouTube user Eugenio Maldonado uploaded to his personal account footage in which he is seen dumping the contents of well-known brand Taragüi into a strainer and sifting out the yerba mate sticks and leaves. In the horrifying climax of the video, he pours the entire dust contents into a bowl to show viewers just how much dust (or powdered yerba mate) they are consuming. Over half of the bag is just dust.
In a second video he posted several days after, Eugenio weighs out the dust of eight of the more popular brands of yerba mate (Taragüi, Nobleza Gaucha, Unión, Rosamonte, Amanda, Playadito, and La Merced.) The verdict? For almost all of the brands, between forty and fifty percent of the contents were simply yerba dust.
So technically, half of what we are paying for is dust. A bag of Taragüi is marketed at 70 pesos, “but in reality it should be 35 pesos”, he says.
Some viewers were outraged at the sight of their yerba mate containing so much powdered yerba compared to the percentage of sticks and leaves they were thinking they were consuming, and were quick to thank Eugenio for his timely discovery.
For other yerba mate drinkers, the dust is a crucial component to their experience and admit to liking the acidic flavor that the dust (or polvo) creates. But for another group of consumers, the dust is seen as being bad for their health and say that they prefer that there were more leaves and sticks present. A country divided — by their favorite caffeinated infusion.
The outrage was so big that recently Taragüi was forced to issue a statement on their Facebook page in an attempt to bring calm to the population and said that the dust, known as powdered leaf, is “very important as a component because it provides very long-lasting foams, [and] aroma.”
Their Facebook posts concludes with them assuring that “none of the ingredients of yerba mate are harmful to the consumer’s health”.
While there is no shortage of debate over the exact health benefits and risks associated with drinking yerba mate — the World Health Organization issued a warning in 2015 that consuming mate a higher temperatures could increase risk for developing certain types of cancer — most experts agree that as long as the polvo is “quality” ground yerba mate leaves there shouldn’t be any additional health risk.
Flavor preferences… Well, that’s a whole other can of yerba, my friend.