How to prepare a traditional Argentinian mate
In its traditional version, yerba mate is hot and bitter. This is the best way to enjoy its unique flavor and take advantage of its magnificent properties
Although yerba mate is very versatile, because of the variety of ways it can be enjoyed and also because of its many different health benefits; its classic version is hot and bitter. This is Argentina’s favorite way of drinking mate, and not in vain is this country the largest producer of yerba mate in the world and one of the main consumers: 8 out of 10 Argentinians drink yerba mate.
This infusion is always based on yerba mate leaves, which have gone through a drying and grinding process that gives them their characteristic bitter taste. In Argentina and other mate-consuming countries, the water used for mate is usually hot (but not boiling) and the original bitterness of yerba mate is preserved; however, there are many options to customize it later according to your preferences.
Enjoying a good mate in the morning or in the afternoon is no longer a privilege of Argentinians; today we can learn how to prepare and enjoy one of the best drinks in the world.
What do we need to prepare a traditional mate tea?
- A mate gourd, a bombilla (special metal straw) and preferably a thermos to maintain water temperature for longer.
- High-quality yerba mate.
- Ideally, a kettle to heat the water, since it allows a better control of the temperature.
Step by step: how to prepare a traditional bitter mate
- Heat water to boiling point -between 70 and 80ºC- without letting it boil.
- Fill 3/4 of the gourd with yerba mate.
- Cover the mate cup with your hand, turn it upside down and shake it gently to mix the components.
- Lift the gourd slowly up to an inclination of about 45 degrees and pour a bit of warm water on the side that has less yerba, in order to moisten the bottom.
- Using this same inclination, introduce the bombilla against the internal wall, trying not to move it later.
- Add hot water slowly on the side of the bombilla, until you see foam on the surface.
- As the yerba absorbs the water, pour a little more until it reaches the top, and your mate is ready to be enjoyed!
The YES and NO’s of yerba mate
🗸 Hot water is ideal to bring out all the properties of yerba mate, since it increases the solubility of its components. It is advisable to keep the water in a thermos flask so it maintains its ideal temperature.
✗ The water should not boil, since the solubility increases so much that all the substances are extracted in a few rounds and the yerba can quickly lose its flavor.
🗸 Pour the water slowly and always through the same place.
✗ Be careful not to soak all the content (so you can enjoy the taste of yerba mate much longer)
🗸 Although the classic mate tea is bitter, some people prefer to sweeten the infusion with a little sugar on the surface. You can also add more flavor by placing some dried orange, lemon or grapefruit peels at the bottom; or even mint, melissa or cedron leaves.
✗ The bombilla should not be moved so as not to alter the taste of the mate.
🗸 It is recommended that the first sips are continuous.
✗ Don’t take too long to drink your mate or it will cool down. Also, you should always drink all the water in the gourd before adding more.
The “rules of etiquette” in a traditional mate round
- Although in times of COVID it is recommended to drink yerba mate individually; the tradition dictates that yerba mate is shared by two or more people in rounds, using the same mate gourd and bombilla. In fact, drinking yerba mate in Argentina is considered a reason for social gatherings, so it is usually enjoyed in groups (a tradition that goes back to the time of gauchos drinking yerba mate around a fire).
- The first sip is always taken by the “cebador” (person in charge of brewing the mate), who is also in charge of serving the mate each time and passing it to each of the members of the group.
- When the foam and the flavor start to fade away, the bombilla must be pulled out and the yerba must be replaced.
- Only say “thank you” to the cebador when you don’t want to continue drinking.
Although this is the most common way to drink yerba mate, there is always an opportunity to add a personal touch! Besides traditional yerba mate with or without stems; there is also fruit-flavored yerba and even yerba with extra mateine to start the day full of energy. And apart from the traditional presentation, yerba mate is also available in tea bags to be prepared just like tea. On hot summer days, you can also enjoy a delicious tereré (cold-brewed mate); so there is no excuse not to enjoy all the benefits of yerba mate!