Bath-based Yuyo was founded by hispanist Rosie Marteau and PhD biochemist Charles Grummitt following 12-months travelling in Latin America. Whilst there, the couple discovered the original South American super herb, yerba mate, and it inspired them to launch a range of yerba mate-based blends in April 2016.
Rosie: "Whilst travelling across South America, we threw ourselves into the sights, sounds and smells of Latin life, from the heady Caribbean coast of Panama all the way to Paraguay, where we sampled our first gourd of yerba mate. This South American super herb became a part of our world, as we exchanged stories over yerba mate with the new friends we encountered on our journey."
Yerba mate, which Rosie stresses isn’t coffee and certainly isn’t tea, is an institution from Southern Brazil to the tip of Patagonia. A cousin of the European holly plant, the leaves and stalks of yerba mate (ilex paraguariensis) are dried, seasoned and served up in a specially carved gourd, called the mate, and drunk through a perforated metal straw, known as the bombilla. The gourd is usually shared by a group of people, and ritual governs how it is filled, brewed and passed.
Rosie: "Our return to the UK left us longing for those yerba moments; that simple ritual of spending time with kindred spirits over an energising mate. Buzzing with memories, we set out to create blends with yerba mate that we could share. After lots of experimentation and refining we developed a range of award-winning infusions inspired by our experiences in Latin America. We blend in small batches with only the finest organic yerba mate and other natural ingredients and essential oils."
Yuyo – meaning herb or wild plant in Latin American Spanish – is the product of Rosie and Charles winning The Seed Fund in May 2015. The prestigious UK award for food and drink start-ups saw the couple, who met over a decade ago at university, awarded £100,000 in branding, design, marketing and financial support.
Rosie: "Yuyo aims to be the first company to bring yerba mate to the mainstream hot drinks category in Europe, and is set apart by its premium, organic ingredients, delicious flavour profiles and astoundingly vibrant and unique branding. The whole range of six blends is certified organic by the Soil Association."
Four of the range are yerba mate-based, for those, according to Rosie, who "like a little mind-awakening stimulation", and two are rooibos-based for people who prefer something more chilled. Flavour profiles include the grapefruit-infused Yerba Zing, and Yerba Spice, with its cardamom, turmeric and chilli mix.
According to Rosie, famous Argentinians and Uruguayans, Che Guevara, Maradona, Messi, Suárez and the Pope are all well-known yerba mate drinkers. Today every Uruguayan drinks over 9kg of yerba mate every year – that’s five times the amount of tea your average Brit drinks!
So after all their travels, why does the couple love Somerset?
Rosie: "Well, I’m sure I’m not the only one to say this, but it has to be the landscape and food culture. As cyclists, the combination of hills and levels means there will always be a great route for a ride, depending on how strong we’re feeling. And then there are the great indie and organic producers, everything from cider apples to edible flowers and herb fields."
All photographs by Neil White.