Mate (pronounced mah-teh) is a drink made by steeping dried leaves from the yerba mate plant in hot water. It was the Guarani Indians of South America who first discovered the rejuvenating qualities of yerba mate and now it’s enjoyed in Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, parts of Brazil, Chile, eastern Bolivia, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. It tastes somewhat like green tea, with hints of tobacco and oak. The simplest method for many is to treat yerba mate like any other loose tea; steep it in hot water and then filter out the leaves before drinking. (Note: The ideal brewing temperature for yerba mate is approximately 170°F; using boiling water will produce a bitter, inferior beverage.) In order to enjoy mate in the traditional way, however, you must prepare it properly as outlined below.
<img src='https://i0.wp.com/www.wikihow.com/images/thumb/c/cb/Make-Yerba-Mate-Step-1-Version-2.jpg/aid152475-v4-728px-Make-Yerba-Mate-Step-1-Version-2.jpg' alt='Obtain a gourd and bombilla.’ width=’900′ height=’599′ />
Obtain a gourd and bombilla.
Mate is traditionally steeped and served in a hollow calabash gourd (itself called a mate) and drunk through a metal straw called a bombilla (pronounced bome-bee-ja). There are also mate cups made from metal, ceramic or wood. You can use a regular teacup, as well, but you’ll definitely need the bombilla.
A gourd being used for the first time should be cured, or else the first few drinks from it might be a little on the bitter side. Curing removes the soft inner tissues of the gourd and “seasons” the inside with the flavor of mate. Fill the gourd with boiling water almost to the metal rim (or to the top if there is no metal rim) and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then softly scrape the membrane out of the gourd with a metal spoon under running water (but do not remove the stem in the center). Finally, put the cleaned-out gourd in the sunlight for a day or two until it is completely dry.
Pack the dry, loose yerba mate into the gourd just over half full.
Place your hand on the top of the half-filled gourd and turn it upside-down.
Shake the more powdery leaves to the top of the gourd with several flicks of the wrist. This helps to ensure that you don’t suck in the powdery leaves through the bombilla later.
Turn the gourd almost completely on its side and give it several light shakes back and forth.
This action will bring the larger stems to the surface, which will help filter the powdery leaves later. Slowly and carefully tilt the gourd right side up so that the yerba mate remains in a lopsided pile on one side.
<img src='https://i0.wp.com/' alt='Insert the bombilla into the gourd.’ width=’900′ height=’599′ />
Insert the bombilla into the gourd.
Whether you add cool water before or after inserting the bombilla is a matter of personal or cultural preference. Either way, the cool water will help preserve the integrity of the mate.
Put the bombilla in the empty space next to the pile, being careful not to disturb the arrangement. Bring the end of the bombilla to the bottom and against the wall, as far from the powdery tip of the pile as possible. Then add cold water into the empty space until just before it reaches the top of the pile and wait for it to be absorbed. Try to keep the powdery tip of the pile dry.
Alternatively, pour cool water into the empty space until just before it reaches the top of the pile, and wait for it to be absorbed. Pack or gently tamp the slope of the pile; this packing helps the mate remain in this shape later on. Bring the end of the bombilla to the bottom and against the wall, as far from the powdery tip of the pile as possible.
<img src='https://i0.wp.com/' alt='Pour hot water into the empty space as you did with the cool water.’ width=’900′ height=’599′ />
Pour hot water into the empty space as you did with the cool water.
It is important that you use hot water (70–80 °C, 160–180 °F) not boiling water, as boiling water will make the mate bitter.
<img src='https://i0.wp.com/' alt='Drink from the bombilla.’ width=’900′ height=’599′ />
Drink from the bombilla.
Newcomers to mate tend to jiggle the bombilla and stir the herb. Resist this temptation, or you’ll end up clogging the bombilla and allowing herb into the straw. Drink the entire mate when it’s handed to you, don’t just take a small sip and pass it back. You should hear a sound similar to when drinking soda with straw.
In a group, the first brew is traditionally taken by the person who prepares the mate. If you are the server, drink the mate until there is no water left, then refill the gourd with hot water and pass it to the next person, sharing the same bombilla.
Keep refilling the gourd as it’s passed around (one brew per person) until it loses its flavor (called lavado in Spanish, because the flavor is “washed out”); it should take ten refills, more or less (depending on the quality of the mate). The mound can be pushed to the opposite side of the gourd and refilled a few more times in order to fully extract the flavor.
To signal that you don’t want any more mate, give thanks to “el cebador” (the server). Remember only to give thanks after your last mate. Once you give thanks it will be understood that you do not want anymore.
Clean the gourd (or whatever container you used) after you’re done and leave it out to dry.
Containers made from organic materials may rot and your mate will taste accordingly.