Tips on How to Drink Yerba Mate

What is Yerba Mate?

What is Yerba Mate?

I’ve always been a fan of tasting new beverages – especially when it’s the cultualy appropriate thing to do.

Not sure if you know this about me or not, but after graduating from University I set out to Argentina to complete a TESOL course for teaching English.

My time in the exciting city of Buenos Aires was highly enjoyable.

It was in Argentina, living in a student house for a month, where I was introduced to one of the most important beverages in the country: Yerba Mate.

Gourd full of yerba mate

Gourd full of yerba mate

Background Information

I previously wrote an article including a video on Yerba Mate, it was one of my very first articles on Migrationology – seriously, you can check it out right here (it was about 3 years ago… it’s ok to laugh!).

After spending about 5 months in South America I jetted off to Southeast Asia where I’ve been traveling and living in Bangkok ever since.

Unfortunately Yerba Mate was put on hold (not sure if you can even find it in Thailand) while other beverages like Chinese tea and Vietnamese coffee dominated my beverage repertoire.

When I returned back to the US for a quick visit was when I re-united with mate.

It really is a remarkable drink.

It’s bitter and pungent yet it’s so cool to drink and as a caffeine stimulant, it’s perfect to drink while working on the computer (which I’m doing this very moment).

When I first tasted mate, it was an odd bitter taste – but to be honest I thrive to find odd and especially different tasting things throughout this world. So from my first few sips I knew Yerba Mate was going to be a beverage I enjoyed drinking for the taste and for the social aspects of it.

For the remainder of my time in South America I drank yerba mate obsessively. When it was cold in Patagonia I must have drunk 50 – 100 gourd full per day.

Digging my hand into the yerba mate leaves

Digging my hand into the yerba mate leaves

What is Yerba Mate?

Yerba Mate is a small bush that produces evergreen leaves used to make yerba mate tea. The plant is native to southern parts of South America and is a wildly popular beverage in Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Chile.

There are 4 main components that make up drinking Yerba Mate.

1. Gourd

The basic cup (drinking device) is made from a gourd. It can be simple or elaborately designed. The one I have (pictured) is a leather covered gourd with a silver meter lip.

I also have a mate gourd carved into a cow hoof – it’s pretty cool!

2. Metal Straw (bombilla)

Instead of straining normal tea (or using a teabag), yerba mate is placed into a gourd and a metal straw is placed into it. The metal straw strains the leaves so you can easily suck up just the brewed tea.

3. Yerba Mate (mate herb)

Of course, in order to drink yerba mate you need a package of the herb itself. There are many different brands but the one I just bought is packaged by Rosamonte.

4. Hot Water (in a hot water thermos)

Whenever you drink yerba mate you need hot water – and not just a single cup, but a full bottle supply. It’s easiest to boil water and put it into a thermos.

Drinking Yerba Mate

Drinking Yerba Mate

Drinking Yerba Mate

Yerba mate not only tastes great, but it’s also a very social beverage.

If you partake of mate with a group, there’s just one gourd and one person who pours. Hot water is poured and the gourd is passed to the first person who drinks the entire thing and passes it back to the designated pourer. The process repeats, passed around in a rotating manner.

One gourd full of mate leaves can be refilled with hot water anywhere from 10 – 20 times. The tea does get less and less potent with every pour.

I particularly enjoy the first few stout cups.

So there’s a quick overview of one of the most awesome beverages in the world!

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    • says

      Cool Kate! It’s a bit bitter and can be quite strong, but keep sippin it and it really grows on you – it did for me. Hope you can try it and let me know how you like it!

  1. says

    I never got into this when I lived in Buenos Aires. I was very amused by the stories I heard from expats that nobody realized it was not a good idea to share mate during the swine flu outbreak. Just goes to show how ingrained this custom is in their culture. Too much work for me…. who wants to carry around all that stuff!

    • says

      Hey Stephanie, yah, I guess passing around the gourd if someone is sick is not the wisest thing. I really got into the habit of carrying around my gourd and thermos everywhere… especially when it started getting cold. I guess I just loved the flavor so much that after I started drinking it, I just couldn’t resist.

  2. says

    Hi Mark,

    I had discovered yerba mate before I stepped out my home country (Canada). Read about it from health-related sites. I never knew about drinking it with the gourd/bombilla at that time, so I just used one of those perforated teaspoons and drank it as a tea or threw some in a teaball and threw it in a pitcher of water for a cool drink.

    Once I had travelled to BsAs & Uruguay, I bought a bombilla/gourd and tried it like that. It’s a lot different (& stronger) of course.

    Rosamonte is one of my favorite kinds.

    Ever tried some of the flavoured ones? CBSe has a nice mint/herb one I’ve used lots. All sorts of fruity flavours (which I care for less) and even a coffee flavour! The coffee one — might as well just have a coffee :-)

    Have you tried some of the ‘sin palo’ (without stem) kinds of yerba? These are usually stronger. There’s one from Uruguay named ‘Canarias’ that’s quite strong. So much so it hurts my stomach. It isn’t just me too — when I stayed at a hostel in Montevideo, one of the employees there said it was the same for her too (a native Uruguyan).

    I still have the occasional gourd of mate at home once in a while, but not often. I do the teaball/chilled water thing often.


  3. nicola says

    HI Mark
    My grand grand parents migrated from Italy to South America at the end of the 19th century, then they came back to Europe and they brought the gourd and the silver bombilla (that I still have not so nice as yours)and when we were child sometimes we had mate, bitter but with a lot of sugar.
    Nice !

  4. says

    Sounds very interesting. My friend is dating a guy from Argentina who is now a chef in Chicago. Being his world revolves around anything you can place on a dinner table, this will be a good conversation starter with him. Plus he could probably direct me to where I would be able to purchase some Yerba Mate!

    • says

      I thought the Argentines (or at least the ones in BsAs) considered it a little hickish to carry the mate gear around all over? This is what one expat guy in BsAs told me anyhow.

      Now the Uruguyans — I’ve seen them carry it around all over with my own two eyes.

  5. says

    What’s the yerba situation in Bangkok, Mark? Is it available at all?

    How about just ordinary black tea? Is that available in supermarkets too? Doesn’t need to be any specific kind — haven’t tried too many ordinary black teas I don’t like.

    • says

      Hey Dana, I’ve never come across Yerba Mate in Bangkok, though I haven’t searched extremely hard. As for black tea, it should be available at most supermarkets.

  6. says

    Wow! this might be one of the few blogs that I read that has some info about something so argentinian like mate! It is so good! I moved from Argentina to Dubai 4 years ago and fortunately yerba is sold here, although it’s not Rosamonte hehe.
    Cool site. I’ll subscribe now.

    • says

      Hey Octavio, very cool, thanks for the comment and for subscribing. I spent a few months in Argentina a few years ago and loved drinking mate. Glad you have it available in Dubai!


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