The tea used in the study was prepared at the same concentration used in South America, although they usually drink 2 to 3 liters per day, said de Mejia.
In South America, mate is usually drunk from a dried gourd and consumed through a metal straw. About 50 grams of dry leaves are packed into the gourd and hot water is poured over them; this is repeated many times, with as much as to 1 liter of water. This method of consumption allows tea drinkers to slowly extract the antioxidants and polyphenols before they can be oxidized.
To duplicate these results with mate teabags, you would need to use four or five teabags instead of one. Its a strong taste, but many people say that coffee has a strong, bitter taste. This is more of a grassy herbal taste. It may be an acquired taste, but I seem to have acquired it, said graduate student Caleb Heck who accompanied de Mejia to Argentina.
Heck characterized the tea consumed in the cholesterol study in de Mejias U of I labs and is now working with the tea brought back from Argentina. He said that mate is high in xanthines (mainly caffeine), and he has found 12 polyphenolic compounds at different concentrations, depending on where the tea was grown. Polyphenols are thought to have a protective effect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
He is quickly becoming something of an authority on the subject, and he and de Mejia have written a comprehensive review of mate tea, including its chemistry, health implications, and the technological considerations involved in its processing, that has been published in Novembers Journal of Food Science, which can be viewed at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/toc/jfds/0/0. The study was funded by the University of Illinois Research Board.
|Contact: Elvira de Mejia|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign