Come to Life
We are working to make organic, fair-trade yerba mate the mainstream energy source of choice, and prove that a company can be profitable while operating sustainably. We are an organization of individuals whose daily work is to bring you the finest yerba mate on the planet. We started in 1996 with a vision of protecting and restoring the South American rainforests and empowering the native forest people, and with your help, we are achieving that goal, sip by sip. Here is the story of our humble beginning.
In 1996, Guayaki was seeded in California's central coast by two university buddies. Alex Pryor from Buenos Aires, and David Karr from Northern California. As good friends and passionate yerba mate drinkers, David and Alex set out to share the yerba mate plant with the world, recognizing that people were in need of a nourishing source of energy and a healthy dose of optimism. As good fortune would have it, co-founders Alex and David were swiftly joined by three other pioneering partners to round out the original founding seed group: don Miguel aka the “The Journeyman”, Steven Karr aka “Shape-Shifter” and Christopher Mann aka “The Chairman of the Gourd”. These five ambitious friends aka the “semillas” (seeds) channeled their activist mentality into the creation of a new restorative business model, calling consumers to action by voting with their dollars.
The Semillas rooted themselves in fertile grounds of San Luis Obispo, CA,nestled comfortably between scenic Santa Barbara and magical Big Sur. This coastline, riddled with good surf breaks, provided the perfect backdrop for many extended mate gourd sessions while looking for surf. As passionate lifestylers, the Semillas group was intimately committed to a holistic lifestyle and business practice which was philosophically aligned with their love for nature, adventure and spirit.
In a blend of the West coast pioneer spirit and Argentine hospitality, the inspired band of Semillas took to the road to share mate with all those who would listen. Rooted in the central coast, hours from any major city, road warriorship became Guayakí's destiny. Traveling in a mix of VW vans, pickups, and RV’s, David, Steven and don Miguel took the wheel in the one hand and the mate gourd in the other, to the four corners of United States. With a strong brew of mate, good tunes, flowers and genuine hospitality, the Semillas encouraged keen samplers to develop a relationship with the yerba mate plant.
Growing up, we always heard “money does not grow on trees.” Well, today we are proving that “money does grow on trees” and rainforest-grown yerba mate is the new green currency. It provides the peoples of the rainforest with income as well as the ability to steward their land.
In 2009, Guayakí became the first Fair Trade Certified yerba mate company in the world thru IMO.
With a passion for mate, we have pioneered an innovative business model that directly links our customer’s purchases to our partner farming communities in the South American Atlantic Rainforests. Our partners sustainably harvest organic yerba mate from rainforest grown cultivations and reforestation projects, generating a renewable income stream which enables these communities to improve their lives and restore their lands. Our restoration projects are primarily based in the lush yerba mate growing regions of Argentina, Paraguay and Southern Brazil.
We become intimately involved with our partnering farmers and encourage the cultivation under native rainforest trees. This promotes the preservation of forests, and in addition, we work with the farmers to reforest native hardwood species. Once a farmer agrees to partner with us, we provide technical advice on how to create nurseries, help them manage the organic growing process from cultivation through harvest and then buy what they produce. The farmers, in turn, must repopulate their rain forest with the native hardwood trees -- which restores the land to its original shaded, biodiverse state -- and provides a living wage and fair working conditions.
Looking at the map of the upper Parana forest, one of the ecoregions of the Atlantic Forest, shows the rampant, recent deforestation (95% of the Atlantic Forest has been deforested). Now, with a proven market for rainforest-grown yerba mate, we can begin to reforest this ecoregion with native, diverse mate forests. Yerba Mate is native to the Atlantic forest and forest grown mate is environmentally sustainable in the long term and provides for more income per acre than cattle or agricultural products such as corn, soy or wheat. It will take some time, but as consumers vote with their dollars, we funnel the dollars where they need to go: to the people who are stewarding their forests.
From the simple love of a beverage, Guayakí drinkers have become a driving force for conservation and community development by paying a fair trade price for their yerba mate.