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Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system - as most coffee drinkers will attest, it provides a boost to our productivity and creativity. It has also been associated with lower risk to Alzheimers and other forms of dementia (NIH).

Unfortunately, especially, as a US citizen (to where these products must be shipped overseas), coffee and tea have high water footprints environment - I'm less concerned about their Carbon footprint, which is on the order of 10 kg CO2eq per year per person that drinks a cup a day (the Guardian). Waterfootprint.org estimates a standard cup of coffee to require 140 L in the Netherlands, compared to 35 L for tea. On a per unit mass basis, it even beats meat in terms of its water consumption - 18,900 L/kg compared to 15,400 L/kg for beef (Virtual Water).

Yerba Mate markets itself to environmentally and socially conscious caffeine drinkers. How does it compare to coffee and tea in terms of carbon and water footprint? Less relevantly, but if information equally accessible, how does it compare in terms of health and caffeine?

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Mate has one huge advantage that it's mostly grown (and consumed) in the region it comes from- but as popularity grows that may change.

Mate is also processed pretty minimally - it is dried on a (traditionally wood) fire for less than a minute and left to cure for months then ground. Typically it is even left with most the twigs present in South American consumption.

As far as health- any Uruguayan will tell you a long list of supposed benefits, I can't find things proving them. Although there are definitely caffeine (and other xanthines) and anti-oxidants. The xanthines in mate are thought to prove relaxing to muscles unlike in coffee (reference, anyone?). But folklore about 'mateine' instead of caffeine is false- the caffeine present is the same chemical as in coffee and tea. Some of the chemicals thought to be negative in coffee aren't present, though.

  • Thanks, that's interesting about the mate production, though I'm not sure how that compares to coffee and tea. Mostly I'm curious about the lifecycle numbers, as they can often be deceiving. – Eric H. Dec 3 '13 at 16:26
  • Fair enough- sorry I don't have any numbers, just what I've seen. Coffee is roasted, and tea is baked, typically. Although I don't imagine that process is the main impact compared to water use. – Meep Dec 3 '13 at 22:37
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    FYI - coffee, in particular, can vary a lot in water usage according to what kind of process is used to remove the coffee cherry's pulp from the bean (seed.) Dry processing uses very little, fully washed uses a significant amount. So be sure to take this variation into consideration as well when deciding which constitutes a "greener" product. – TeresaMcgH Dec 4 '13 at 23:35
  • Thanks, I was just thinking in terms of irrigation and not in water use for processing. – Meep Dec 6 '13 at 1:04

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