Beneath the rainforest canopy in South America, the Guarani Indians have been drinking the steeped juice of the leaves of the wild yerba tree-bush for centuries. They cite numerous health benefits, including increased immune system strength, improved digestion, stress reduction, and stimulation of mental processes. In 1964 the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society concluded "it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to Mate in nutritional value" and that Yerba (pronounced Sherba) Mate contains "practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life." Today, over 300,000 tons of Yerba Mate is produced yearly for consumption in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. It is truly the South American passion! Yerba Mate comes from a tree, "Ilex Paraguariensis", cultivated in South America. The yerba is the leaves; dried and crushed to make a tea-like herb. You may add sugar or honey to sweeten the Yerba as the Argentineans do. Or drink it plain as the majority of South America does. To allow proper flavor release and to avoid a bitter flavor, Yerba tea should be steeped in hot water, not boiling. By using a "hot steep" you can infuse the same tea leaves several times and still experience an excellent tea. You will find this tea to be vegetal, herbal, and grassy much like a green tea. It is common practice still today to have friends gather round for a passing of the gourd. Passed in a counterclockwise motion, the gourd filled with Yerba Mate is passed from person to person drinking until the host, who prepares the beverage, runs out of water.