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Prepare Yerba Mate

Updated on February 25, 2013
A mate gourd with a bombilla and dried, crushed mate leaves
A mate gourd with a bombilla and dried, crushed mate leaves | Source

Yerba Mate Overview

The Mate plant, anglicized as maté, is a tree that belongs to the genus of holly. The mate tree is commonly grown in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil. It is used almost exclusively for its leaves. The leaves are dried, steeped, and drunk creating effects similar to that of coffee, but without the high caffeine content.The drink is mainly consumed in a traditional manner that is native to the regions were mate is grown. The loose mate leaves and stems are placed into a hollow gourd and steeped in hot water. The tea is then sipped through a bombilla, which is a metal straw that filters the tea and keeps the leaves in the gourd.

A new gourd needs to be cured before the first use, which is easy and will make yerba mate taste better. Preparing yerba mate and the gourd before each use is very important as well. The gourd also requires a little care and maintenance after each use. A gourd gets better with age and use, similar to a seasoned tobacco pipe.

Yerba mate is a communal drink. Remember to share and enjoy yerba mate with others!

Native Regions of Mate

show route and directions
A markerArgentina -
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C markerUruaguay -
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D markerParaguay -
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Benefits of Yerba Mate

Vitamins & Minerals

  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, C
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Zinc

Beneficial Effects

  • Energizing & Stimulating (Less caffeine than coffee)
  • Rich in Antioxidants
  • Enhances Focus & Clarity
  • Used in Traditional Weight Loss

Curing Yerba Mate Gourd

A new gourd needs to be cured before use. Curing removes the soft tissue that still remains inside the gourd. Curing also helps remove the bitterness and earthly taste of the gourd as well. It also creates a smoother surface on the inside of the gourd. Curing is easy to accomplish.

  1. Place some loose yerba mate into the gourd.
  2. Add warm (not boiling) water to the gourd.
  3. Let the water and yerba mate sit for 24 to 48 hours. This softens the excess gourd tissue.
  4. Pour out the water and yerba mate, then rinse out the gourd.
  5. Gently scrap the inside of the gourd with a spoon. Try to remove as much of the softened tissue as possible. Be careful not to dig into the hardened shell of the gourd.
  6. The yerba mate gourd is now ready to be used and enjoyed!

The bombilla is pushed into the slope of wet yerba mate.
The bombilla is pushed into the slope of wet yerba mate. | Source

Preparing Yerba Mate

Preparing yerba mate is essential, considering the yerba mate is in loose leaf form when used with a gourd. Correct preparation will enhance yerba mate and prevent loose leaves from being drawn into the bombilla (straw). Proper water temperature will also prevent yerba mate leaves from being burned. Preparation is easy and only takes a few minutes.

  1. Fill the gourd 2/3 full of loose yerba mate.
  2. Cover the opening with the palm of the hand and heavily agitate it by shaking it. This helps the coarse mate separate from the finer mate.
  3. Set the gourd down after agitating. The coarser mate will be settled on top of the finer mate.
  4. Tilt the gourd 45 degrees. The yerba mate will shift to the tilted side of the gourd.
  5. Pour a little room temperature water into the gourd (enough to wet the yerba mate) and let sit for a few minutes. This allows the leaves to slowly breakdown before the hot water is added.
  6. Pour hot water (not boiling water!) into the empty area of the gourd where the tilting shifted yerba mate to one side.
  7. Poke a hole into the wet yerba mate where the bombilla will rest.
  8. Place the bombilla into the yerba mate at an angle.
  9. Pour more hot water near the bombilla, and carefully share and enjoy!

Add hot water as necessary. The gourd can be refilled with hot water several times using the same yerba mate. Simply empty the gourd of yerba mate when finished and let sit to dry out.

Yerba mate teabags
Yerba mate teabags | Source

Yerba Mate Teabags

Yerba mate can still be enjoyed without using a gourd and bombilla. Yerba mate is commonly sold in teabags that can be steeped in a coffee mug or teacup. The yerba mate sold in teabags is no different than the yerba mate sold in teabags. The only downside of tea bags is that the amount of tea in a bag is much less than a gourd full of loose yerba mate. Teabags are also a little more expensive compared to loose yerba mate.

Teabags are also available in different flavors and tea blends. Yerba mate is often blended with green tea, chamomile, and other herbs to create unique flavors and blends.

Yerba Mate Gourd Care

The gourd needs a little attention and care between uses. Empty the gourd of spent tea and leave the gourd out to dry. Drying the gourd between uses will reduce the gourd from degrading and prevents mold. Remember, the gourd is merely a dried out fruit that can decompose if neglected. Placing the gourd in an area where air circulates is ideal.

Do not drop the gourd or subject it to rough conditions. Gourds should be treated like china to ensure future enjoyment.

Yerba Mate Poll

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    • CriticalMessage profile image

      Murphy 5 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      This stuff is delicious liquid crack!, all natural with a twist of citrus or berries and 2tsp of sugar for me... I love it!

      & Inexpensive.

    • seh1101 profile image

      Sean Hemmer 5 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      GoodLady - Thanks for the pin! I very much enjoy the ritual of drinking yerba mate. Its a great way to start the morning... gets the sleepy mind to focus on the task of preparing the tea and waken up a little. I wish people in the States drank tea more often, since I don't care for coffee very much.

      DrMark1961 - Thanks for the suggestion! Sometimes I add a little too much maté to my gourd and it becomes a bit bitter for my liking.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Some people add sugar to their maté (at step 5) so if it is too bitter for you try it that way.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Always interesting suggestions seh101. Loved reading this and trying to imagine the taste and the making of it, the gourd. All very exotic. I like the 'process', the ritualistic idea of it all. A bit different from a pot of English Tea, though somehow a lot like it. English tea pots get better as time goes on, I swear! Thanks.


    • seh1101 profile image

      Sean Hemmer 5 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I believe the gourd is a tradition that is still widely practiced, but the taste of the tea gets better as the gourd ages. The flavors of the tea absorb and build up in the gourd the more its used. When my gourd was new, it seemed to cause the tea to be more bitter than usual during the first few uses.

    • PenHitsTheFan profile image

      Amy L. Tarr 5 years ago from Home

      I've never heard of this before. I wonder if the gourd adds something to the tea or do they use it because that is what they have on hand?