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Letters to the Editor: March 27, 2013 

A Letter From Guayakí

We want to first say thank you for the story, and for sharing the joys of your journey into Argentina ("Bottling the Tradition," Feb. 13). We've had much to talk about at Guayakí since reading your article, and wanted the opportunity to express our thoughts and share with you our collective experience.

One line in particular is very interesting to us, towards the end: "Drinking maté isn't anyone's birthright; to drink maté is to share."

We agree with this sentiment; it is this idea that has helped Guayakí evolve from its beginnings as a purely loose-leaf yerba maté distributor to a purveyor of the plant in many forms. This diversification has allowed us to introduce maté to people who may never have discovered it before, and has helped us grow in order to advance our mission of reforesting the Atlantic Rainforest and fostering hundreds of living wage jobs. 

Our work was not the focus and intention of your article, but we wish for you to know that we are not merely paying homage to yerba maté: we are using it as a force to bring people together, and awaken the country to a new business model which allows us to use our dollars to vote for the planet. They are not just efforts, but the foundation of our business, born into our company DNA.

Consider the U.S. energy drink and soda industry, and the chemicals that go into the countless 12-oz. cans lurking on the shelves in your local 7-11 cooler. Think about how many people put the contents of these cans into their bodies, without so much as a thought. Think about the companies involved in this enormous industry, how they produce their product, what their intention is, and the havoc they wreak on a population that can't stop consuming them.

Now imagine that those consuming these products instead drank yerba maté, and beyond the far superior nutrition and energy they were putting into their bodies, every can and bottle they purchased saved a tree and helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Seem far-fetched? It's already happening. Each day, we hear from customers all over the country—and more and more parts of the world—who share their stories about how they've started drinking yerba maté and have started feeling so much better, in body, mind, and spirit, and have sworn to never go back to drinking the harmful things they once did.

Making the maté available in multiple formats has allowed us to expand upon the loose leaf tradition and bring maté culture to new people in a nonexclusive way. Whether can, bottle, shot, maté bag or gourd, we remain inclusive, and the story is the same: the maté experience brings a feeling of something wonderful.

This, to us, is the heart of the yerba maté tradition. A powerful spirit bringing positive change to all who share it.

The residents of Argentina in your story had many thoughts on the message on our cans and bottles. These are intended for the U.S. audience—many of whom are learning of the plant for the first time. The labeling is not an accident or a marketing gimmick: in this country, we are used to taking our food, and where it comes from, for granted. We urge you to read up on the organic and non-GMO movements, and understand why labeling is an unfortunate necessity in our current food climate. It is when you begin to discover what is behind the food without a label that you will start asking for immediate transparency in your companies.

If you must read so deeply into what we put on our bottles and cans, consider that reading about yerba maté, its history and tradition, is meant to inspire, to get fans to ask questions and imagine the possibilities of the contents of their drink. We're not going around to Argentinean gourd circles with yerba maté infusion shots and insisting they adopt it as a new world order; that would be like taking your opera-loving grandmother to a metal concert. She'd think it was the worst opera she'd ever heard, run home to crank Pavarotti, and probably cry, but that wouldn't make metal any less powerful, challenging, or deeply moving to its fans. It's still music. (Confusing Grams would make a funny article though.)

The vital components of yerba maté remain: we know the plant to be a blessing that transcends gourd and bombilla and connects humans to each other, and to nature, in a way that is unparalleled. It is our mission to bring this gift to everyone, and transforming the plant has allowed us to do this in more ways than there is room to write. 

Perhaps insisting that the gifts of the yerba maté plant should only be experienced as a uniform ritual is a more accurate description of "bottling the tradition."

Let us know if you would like to come to Guayakí headquarters in Sebastopol to meet us, join our gourd circle, and exchange ideas. We have a warm thermos ready.


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