Tips on How to Drink Yerba Mate

By Mark Wiens 3 Comments
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!