Taza Stone Ground, Chocolate Mexicano – Yerba Mate

Taza Yerba Mate redbg JPEG_LRGI’ve become a big fan of Taza Chocolate.  It’s part loyalty to the only bean-to-bar producer here in Boston, if not the east coast, and part admiration for the innovation they’ve introduced to the world of premium chocolate.  These guys innovated not by adding some new complex process to chocolate making, but by simplifying the usual “modern” process.  Specifically, they do no conching and less refining than most producers so that the courser stone-ground texture comes through in the final product.  But it’s not all about the texture. Rather, the goal is to preserve the natural fruity character of the original bean through minimal processing.  By starting with high quality beans and employing a light roast, they achieve thier goal with beautiful simplicity.

To be clear, this is a traditional process, not a new invention in that sense.  What is new is the unexpected addition of the yerba mate flavor to the Taza line.  They give no particular explanation for why yerba mate, but it seems pretty consistent with their Latin American theme.

Yerba mate is a tropical herb and the tea made from it is considered to be the national drink in many South American countries. It contains both theobromine (the same mild stimulant found in chocolate) and caffeine in levels about half of that of coffee (that is, for the same volume of tea). So, you can expect some caffeine in this chocolate. Some of the compounds in Yerba mate are thought to have beneficial health effects. For instance, recent research shows that saponins have a stimulating effect on the immune system. Numerous studies have found Yerba Mate to have significant antioxidant activity and one Swiss study found that it also had potential as a weight-loss aid.**

But, I didn’t eat this stuff to get healthy, I ate it to see how it tastes, so let’s take a look…

WHAT:  Taza Stone Ground, Chocolate Mexicano – Yerba Mate. USDA Organic. 77g bar. Ingredients: organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic yerba mate powder.  Price range: $$  Where to buy.

WHEN: 30 September, 2009

OVERALL RATING: 82

AROMA: Seaspray, nori, vanilla, hemlock.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Pine, black tea, caramel.

MIDDLE TASTE: Raspberry, orange peel, black tea with lemon, blackberries covered with sugar.

FINISH:  Mint, sweet egg custard,  there’s strawberry shortcake flavor that lingers and fades slowly.

TEXTURE:  A rustic, coarse texture that we’ve come to expect from this stone ground process.

LAST BITE –   What I liked most was the big rise of herbals in the middle – definitely more black tea than green tea.  There’s a mix of berries, cake with herbals that somehow works.  The finish was unexpected – even though the chocolate was gone from my mouth, waves of berry and herb / mint kept coming.

(**Note: these statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease).

Disclosures:  I paid for this chocolate myself.

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5 responses to “Taza Stone Ground, Chocolate Mexicano – Yerba Mate

  1. Technically, yerba mate does not have caffeine. The caffeine molecule is present, but is blocked by so many nutrients, the molecule in changed, forming a new molecule called, ” mateine.” This is why yerba mate gives you the “awake and alert feeling,” but without any of the negative effects of caffeine (jitters, crash, etc). Therefore, while caffeine and mateine are similar, they are not identical.

    • Very interesting information on “mateine.” This is also discussed in the reference (see link on yerba mate). The reference seems to both confirm that yes, there is something called mateine in yerba mate, but it MAY BE caffeine bound up with sugars, tannins, phenols, etc. Bound up does not necessarily mean reacted with. So, it could be that some of the caffeine reacts to form a new compound, mateine, as you stated or that it is simply bound (more or less stuck-to) other compounds, but still exisits as a descrete caffeine molecule.

      So where does this leave us? The article in the link (supported with references at the bottom) strongly asserts that yerba mate contains caffeine:

      “The caffeine content of yerba mate has been assayed to contain between .7 and 2%, with the average leaf yielding about 1% caffeine. In living plants, xanthines (such as caffeine) are bound to sugars, phenols, and tannins, and are set free or unbound during the roasting and/or fermenting processes used to process yerba mate leaves, coffee beans and even cacao beans. The mateine chemical “discovered” is probably just caffeine bound to a tannin or phenol in the raw leaf.”

      However, because it is bound with other compounds and because there are other, perhaps more gentle, stimulants in yerba mate, it may behave differently in our bodies. I would be interested in any scientific references that discuss the physiological effects of mateine.

      As far as my personal experience, I can usually “feel” even small amounts of caffeine acutely (say half a cup of coffee), but didn’t feel anything like that kind of intensity when I ate half a package of this chocolate (I often go through that much during a tasting). So, on a practical level, I wouldn’t worry about eating this stuff and bouncing off the walls (unless you’re that excited about the flavor).

      Thanks for the good discussion. Let us know if you have more detail.

  2. We tried this recently and thought it was very good. Very unique texture and great flavor.

  3. I feel like I’m on a caffeine overload after I eat this chocolate. Yet, i keep doing it. 🙂 But yes, jitters and everything. Crazy.

  4. I’m very sensitive to caffeine and after 1-2 slivers of the half circle of chocolate, I definitely feel the buzz and it goes on all day. Its just hard to stop at 2 slivers; however, beyond that, I just know I’d have the bad side effects of too much caffeine.

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