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Full Guide: Let's prepare your first Mate!

Updated: May 10, 2023

Everything you need to know -and will need- to get started:


MATE CUPS Mate cups come in all shapes, sizes and materials: from bone to silicone, wood to ceramic, glass, metal and gourd. There are basically four styles of mate cups:

1. Mate Gourd

Let's talk about the Argentinian -and my personal- favourite; the gourd. Also called 'calabaza' or 'porongo', gourds are natural cups from the plant Lagenaria Vulgaris, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It can also be decorated with silver or alpaca, engraved or lined with leather or autochthonous fabrics. They need to be ‘cured’ before its first use. These are the most typical types of mate cups in Argentina, Uruguay and the south of Brazil. 2. Wood Mate cups can be made out of different types of wood, which of course affects its flavor. Algarrobo, orange tree, cinnamon, cocobolo, rosewood, quebracho and oak are the most popular woods used to make mate cups. They are dyed, carved and decorated in various ways.

3. Guampa Guampa cups are made out of cow horns. It was very common among argentinian gauchos in the old days and is still very popular in Paraguay. Much like mate gourds, they need to be ‘cured’ before its first use. These are most commonly used for cold mate, also known as "tereré¨. 4. Non-organic materials: Metal, glass, ceramic and silicone. These cups are easy to clean and they don't need to be ‘cured’ before using. They do not absorb the flavor of the yerba, which can be considered a pro or a con, as the mate will not be as tasteful. Some metal cups can transfer some of the heat from the water, so you must be careful. Cups made with ceramic or glass are often covered with leather, keeping the heat for a longer period of time. Silicone mate cups are one of the latest additions to the mate market; they are particularly handy to travel as they are flexible and easy to clean. The downside is that due to the flexibility of the material they require some practice getting used to.


'BOMBILLAS' - FILTER STRAWS In terms of material, you should aim for metal bombillas, made of stainless steel or alpaca. We advise against using glass (because they are very fragile), cane or even wood bombillas (because they are hard to clean and they are prone to mold formation).

In terms of shape, there are two main types, and the difference lies in the type of strainer:


1. Curva

The most common one has a shape that resembles a covered spoon, or a flat bulb, with small holes. It is the best option when drinking mate without stems as it strains most of the yerba. As a con, it can get clogged and it is not the easiest one to clean.

2. Chata

The other type of bombilla looks more like a metal straw with a flexible spring or flat filter on the bottom end. It is the spring that acts as a strainer and in some cases it can be removed for a faster clean.

Don't stress; we can help you find your perfect match!


YERBA The flavor and performance of the yerba will depend on the whereabouts it has been produced, its drying and toasting process and the proportion of stems versus leaves. Each brand and blend of yerba has a different taste, so you will need to do some trying and testing to find your favorite.

1. Yerba without stems If you want a strong and more bitter flavor, this must be your choice. It holds the flavor longer and is the most popular type of yerba in Uruguay and South of Brazil. 2.Yerba with stems If you are a beginner or if you prefer a more mild flavor, yerba with stems is the way to go. It is also the best option to drink tereré. It’s popular in Paraguay and Argentina. 3. Flavored This type of yerba can have a variable but usually have a higher content of stems. The flavor comes usually from essences, citrus peel or zest. It is usually labeled in Spanish as ‘yerba compuesta’ and it refers to a mate blend that is formed by at least 60% of yerba and a maximum of 40% of other herbs such as, mint, thyme, sage, pennyroyal and rosemary. You can also make it yourself by adding your favourite herbs, fruits and spices. 4. Organic Yerba It can have a variable percentage of stems. Grown without using insecticides, pesticides or additives, organic yerba is made without rushing its natural processes.



Ok, let's do it.

HOW TO PREPARE MATE

Mate is a versatile drink and there are many ways of preparing it. There is a huge variety of yerba in the market: with or without stems, finely ground or roughly cut, flavored, sweetened, blended with other herbs; so you gotta try them out and choose your favourite (we can help with that). Mate can be drunk with water - hot or cold -, milk or even juice. However, the most popular and traditional way of preparing mate is plain, with hot water. Here's how to prepare MATE:

What You'll Need

  • YERBA MATE: We always recommend yerba with stems. If you want a strong, more toasted and bitter flavor, go for the one without stems.

  • BOMBILLA: metal straw (stainless steel or alpaca).

  • MATE CUP: Gourd is highly recommended, but you can also drink from a regular cup.

  • HOT WATER: around 80°C.

  • THERMO: Optional but very useful to keep your water at perfect temperature.

Instructions

  • Fill gourd with yerba - Fill 2/3 to 3/4 of the gourd with yerba and slant it at 45-degree angle. If you are using yerba without stems, cover the top of the gourd and shake it up and down, to remove the small particles of the yerba before slanting it (45 degrees angle)

  • Add lukewarm water - Pour lukewarm water as close as the wall of the gourd on the lower half of the slant of yerba. Looking at the mate from above, you will see a half-filled with water, and half dry. Wait until the water is absorbed by the yerba (1 minute).

  • Repeat but with hot water - Repeat this process but this time with hot water - around 80 Celsius / 176 Fahrenheit or lower. It is not recommended to use water at a higher temperature than that because it could burn the yerba, affecting its taste and performance.

  • Put the bombilla (covering the top with thumb) on the same lower side of the yerba, on a digging motion, and pressing until you reach the bottom of the gourd.

  • Press the yerba with the bombilla, creating two differentiated levels: one higher and dry, and other lower and wet.

  • Add hot water to the lower side, aiming as close as possible to the bombilla to avoid the higher (and dry) part of the yerba slant to get wet.

  • Your mate is ready - Just drink it using the bombilla and repeat step 6 as many times as you want.


Watch video:



At some point, which varies depending on the type of yerba mate, you will start noticing the mate is losing its taste - if you burn the yerba or if you accidentally wet the whole yerba this will happen sooner, so be careful! When you get to that point, carefully remove the bombilla and repeat steps 4 and 5, but this time on the ‘dry side’ - opposite from where it was. Continue with step 6 and ENJOY.




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