The plant is grown and processed mainly in South America, more specifically in northern Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil. When the yerba mate is harvested, the branches are dried sometimes with a wood fire, imparting a smoky flavor. Then the leaves and sometimes the twigs are broken up.
The plant can vary in strength of the flavor, caffeine levels and other nutrients depending on whether it is a male or female plant. Female plants tend to be milder in flavor, and lower in caffeine. They are also relatively scarce in the areas where mate is planted and cultivated, not wild-harvested, compared to the male plants.