When it came time for yerba mate, I employed the same methods of sampling. We requested samples from U.S. companies that imported yerba mate and from as many South American companies that exported mate. It was amazing to me the difference in quality among the various brands. We received samples of the traditional yerba (with sticks and stems), as well as samples of yerba with no sticks and stems. After extensive sampling, we determined that the sticks and stems added an uncertain (and often bitter) after taste. I understand that the sticks and stems have a purpose in the traditional way mate is consumed in South America- to keep the bombilla from clogging up. In North American homes, however, folks tend to brew their mate in a French press, coffee pot, drip filter, tea ball, etc.
I have received calls from people commenting on the difference in price between our yerba mate and other mate originating from Argentina and Paraguay. My response in a nutshell..We sell yerba mate, not sticks and stems. True, it would be more beneficial to our pocket book if we sold a pound of mate containing 50% mate and 50% sticks and stems. Some companies even go to the extent of grinding the yerba and sticks together (possibly an effort to conceal the sticks and stems). This practice often results in a fine powder that is easily sucked through the bombilla or lost into the air as you open the package. Even companies who advertise "sin palo" (without stems), sell a yerba grind with 10% sticks and dust.
My point here is that if you pay for yerba mate you should be getting yerba mate and not filler. The next time you purchase yerba mate with sticks and stems, try the Aviva challenge. Place the yerba in a colander or some other means to separate the mate from the sticks and stems. Put the filtered yerba mate and the resulting sticks and stems side by side. Send us a picture and we will send you a free sample of our Big Leaf yerba mate!! It is impossible to remove all the sticks and stems during processing, but when you purchase from Aviva, you can be sure our product is 99% pure mate leaf.
As you shop around and experiment with different yerba brands, remember the old saying, "you get what you pay for."