We are incredibly excited to announce a new partnership with Guayaki Yerba Mate. They have an amazing story and a crazy loyal following among those that know them.
This summer, our brand ambassadors will help spread the word by introducing Yerba Mate to new fans in Seattle through sampling events at concerts, festivals and farmers markets.
As we launch our partnership this weekend at Northwest Folklife Festival, I wanted to share a bit about their company and mission.
Below is my interview with John Wright, their local Cebador.
Dan: What’s the basic story behind Guayaki?
John: Guayaki was started in San Luis Obispo, California nearly 20 years ago. When David Karr was introduced to yerba mate by Alex Prior—an Argentinean (and so much more than that) attending Cal Poly in SLO. Alex and David brought this magical plant to North America and really introduced it to the market, they are pretty much the present day OGs of the North American yerba mate world. They started by importing loose leaf yerba mate and driving around in a series of RVs, serving it to people at farmer’s markets and natural foods stores.
Now in the present day, we still have top-shelf organic, fair-trade certified loose leaf yerba mate, but we also sell RTD’s (industry speak for “ready to drink”) bottles, cans, sparkling cans, and even “shots” of concentrated yerba mate for on-the-go. The North American market has really embraced mate available in the ready-to-drink style. Since introducing the cans and bottles, Guayaki has seen widespread growth.
Guayaki’s entire business model is built upon “Market Driven Restoration.” Basically, what this means is that we work directly with the indigenous people of the South Atlantic Rainforest to preserve their forests. Unfortunately, the indigenous people such as the Ache Guayaki (where Guayaki’s name comes from) are given a brutal choice to sell their land to logging companies who will clear cut the forest and then it’s typically converted to pasture land for cattle. Once the cattle completely degrade the land, it’s then typically used for growing GMO soy or corn. When they sell the land, it’s gone and they get a one-time buy off. Guayaki is giving them, what I would call, a choice of hope and prosperity. Instead of losing their land, Guayaki is enabling them to keep their land and gain income from keeping the forest intact.
Yerba mate is a small tree or shrub that is native to the rainforest. The leaves and stems are harvested and purchased at a “fair-trade” price by Guayaki. “Fair trade” essentially means that the people who produce a product are being paid a living wage which is typically about three times the market rate.
Dan: For folks that aren’t familiar, why should they try Yerba Mate?
John: Simply put: it makes you feel good. When consumed, yerba mate gives a really clean awareness without any crashing or jitteriness. It’s one of things that you have to try it in order to see what it’s all about.
Dan: For fans, what kind of new products and offerings should they check out?
John: You may have to find us at a music festival or a big gathering and meet us. I’m sure we will have something to share with you that you’ve never tried. It’s like a scavenger hunt!
Dan: You seem to love working for Guayaki. What do you actually do?
John: I am a Cebador. “Cebador” basically means “server.” That’s the core point and focus of my work. I serve yerba mate to all those who want to find out about why it’s such a magical plant. Sometimes that means doing account visits or setting up my bar at a music festival and putting cans in the hands of people in need of clean energy.
Dan: How do you prefer your Yerba Mate?
John: In South America, especially in countries like Argentina, they traditionally drink yerba mate using a gourd and a metal straw, called a “bombilla,” that has a filter at the end. Mate drinkers carry around a thermos with hot water and pour it over the loose leaf in the gourd. For myself, I have been pretty hooked on putting cloves, ginger, star anise, and turmeric in my thermos and pouring it over my mate. It’s pretty magical. I drink a ton of Guayaki Biodynamic yerba mate and that’s what I have in my gourd most days.