"It’s not coffee, it’s not tea, it’s not an energy drink and it’s not kombucha. It’s its own thing." It's Matéo Soda, an uplifting new sparkling yerba maté beverage from ex-chef Olie Ford, and it's appearing thick and fast in the fridges of your favourite Victorian grocers, bottle shops and cafés.

Who are you and what are you all about?
I’m a chef, originally from Melbourne but currently living on a farm in the Strathbogie Ranges. I love cooking, and growing food, and I guess trying to live off the land as much as possible, which isn’t always as romantic as it sounds. It’s hard work, but I love it.

As a chef, I drank way too much coffee and it didn’t always make my days easier. Luckily, in my twenties I went to Argentina and it was there where I first came across yerba maté. I just found it agreed with me a little better than coffee does. I noticed I was way more switched on and able to focus, rather than feeling a bit tweaked and eventually tired. I also found the taste super refreshing.

For a long time, I really wanted to share maté with people in Australia. Eventually I started making cold, carbonated versions at home and taking them into work.

Give us the elevator pitch, what is Matéo?
Matéo is a carbonated yerba maté drink. Yerba maté (known affectionately as maté) is a tea-like leaf native to South America where it is cherished. Matéo is delicious, refreshing and uplifting. It has the strength of coffee, but it releases its energy more effectively and efficiently. Thanks to several compounds working alongside caffeine, the effect is much smoother and lasts longer than coffee without such a sudden crash. Maté has similar health benefits to green tea and dark chocolate. We’ve brewed organic yerba maté into three delicious sodas: Original, Ginger and Hibiscus.

Explain like we’re five, how do you make it?
We use maté leaves (pronounced mah-tay) which are similar to tea leaves, but from a different family. We put them in hot water, but not boiling water because it tastes much nicer that way. We strain the liquid off and when it’s cooled down we add only natural and quality ingredients like fresh lemon juice and ginger juice. We don’t use sugar, we get a tiny bit of sweetness from something called erythritol, which you find naturally in watermelons, grapes and corn. We then put this liquid in a big silver tank and make it fizzy with a little thing called carbon dioxide. It’s now good to be bottled and dressed with a fancy label and a silver hat.

What excites you about this project?
It’s really just seeing people enjoying our drinks and incorporating them into their daily lives.

I’m also excited about the fact that it’s a relatively new category here in Australia. It’s not coffee, it’s not tea, it’s not an energy drink and it’s not kombucha. It’s its own thing. There’s a lot of education around it which is a challenge and one that I’m up for.

What are the perfect conditions to enjoy Matéo?
I would say having one with lunch is the ideal situation. You’ve already had a morning coffee but you feel like something cold, refreshing and uplifting. It’s great with a sandwich or a falafel.

I’m noticing restaurant and bar owners who stock us keep saying the staff are smashing them on shift. I’ve got friends in construction who drink them at work and a friend in the ER at St Vincent’s Hospital who tells me some of the doctors and nurses are heading down to Morning Market for lunch and stocking up for their long shifts – so I can see a bit of a trend there for sure. Otherwise, it’s just like any other cold, fizzy drink – knock one back on a smoking hot day at the beach after doing some kind of thirst-provoking activity.

Is it here for a good time or a long time?
We’re here to facilitate a good time. For a long time. 

Where can I buy it?
We’ve been really lucky to have some incredible places stock us quite early on in the piece. The likes of Spring Street Grocer, Morning Market, Blackhearts and Sparrows, Wild Things, Cathedral Coffee, The Lincoln and Blakeaway were some of the first places to get on board. We’re honestly really proud to be in the fridges of all our stockists. 

mateosoda.com, @mateo.soda