Maybe you’re a Yerba Mate aficionado and want to find out another way to prepare “the drink of friendship.” Or, maybe you’re a newbie and you’ve come to learn how the heck to drink the pile of green leaves you bought off of Amazon. Either way, you’ve come to the right place. My aim is to make this as simple, no-BS and enjoyable as possible.
How to prepare Yerba Mate
Now, there are a handful of ways to prepare Yerba Mate. You can do it traditionally (gourd, bombilla and loose-leaf yerba) with a french press, tea bags, strainer, coffee machine and I’m sure, with the rise of Yerba Mate in countries outside of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Southern Brazil, there are a few other ways to make it. Some people use oranges or regular cups for gourds, others blend it with a variety of herbs and some straight up take a spoonful of the dried, loose-leaf yerba to the mouth, which I never recommend. Either way, as the saying goes at the fine, gourmet eating establishment, known as Burger King, “have it your way.” But, seriously, never eat there. It’s poison.
For the sake of this article, I’ll describe how to prepare Yerba Mate in the three most common and practical ways.
Prepare Yerba Mate with a gourd and bombilla (traditional)
Ah, there’s nothing like the smell of tradition. Centuries of the Guaraní tribe drinking Yerba Mate, European colonization coercing indigenous people into forced labor, the newly aristocratic bourgeoisie adopting the ancient customs as their own. There’s truly nothing quite like it, but I digress.
Today, folks can drink Yerba Mate out of glass bottles, aluminum cans, little energy shots, “just add water” cups and more. But, personally, the traditional way of preparing Yerba Mate is my favorite, since it forces you to slow down, focus and take care with what you’re doing; it’s both relaxing and meditative.
To prepare Yerba Mate the traditional way:
- Grab your gourd, and fill up two-thirds of it with some loose-leaf Yerba Mate. If you need a gourd, head here and use the code “mateo10” for 10% off your entire purchase, or here for the loose-leaf yerba and use the same code
- Cover the entire top of the gourd, and give it 2-3 good shakes to get the polvo (powder or dust) out. It can clog up your bombilla
- Do your best to make a half-moon of Yerba Mate sitting on the bottom of the mouth of the gourd (if you’re holding it to the side, or slightly angled) and free space at the top
- Pour a small amount of cold water over the leaves, to help protect the nutrients from the hot water you’re going to pour in
- Insert the bombilla, and lay it flat over the leaves (some people like to do this at the end, but doing it before makes the mountain of dried yerba less likely to fall into the rest of the gourd)
- Pour in hot water (80 – 100 degree F / 27 – 38 degrees C) to the top, but if you have a mountain of dry leaves to the side (from the half moon of dry leaves from before), avoid getting that wet, so you can use it to strengthen your Mate later
- Drink until you hear slurping noises
- Refill, pass to a friend, enjoy
This isn’t exactly a “how to” video, but if you go to 0:25 you’ll see how it’s done.
Prepare Yerba Mate with a french press
For those in a rush, or just not ones for tradition, preparing Yerba Mate in a french press is super simple and quick:
- Fill up a your french press with three spoonfuls of Yerba Mate (add more if you want a stronger brew)
- Add cold water and make sure it covers all of the leaves (again, to protect the nutrients from the hot water potentially burning the leaves)
- Add hot water (again, 80 – 100 degree F / 27 – 38 degrees C)
- Let sit for two minutes
- Press down on the weirdly satisfying plunger
- Pour into a drinking apparatus of choice
Easy enough, no need to make it more complicated than that. What’s also cool is this 21st Century french press spin-off, which is quick, disposable and portable. It’s called “XPress.”
Prepare Yerba Mate with tea bags, tea ball or strainer
Preparing Yerba Mate with tea bags, a tea ball or strainer is also just as easy as preparing it with a french press. It’s a step or two slower, but just as simple. What’s most efficient about this is that it’s more of an “on the go” method than the others; you can bring some tea bags to the office or pop some loose leaves in a ball and then discard right after you’re done. It’s not as lengthy and big of an event as preparing Yerba Mate with a gourd, or even french press:
- Grab a tea bag, like these (easy to use and great value – 100 for $6 can’t be beat)
- Put a spoonful of your favorite loose-leaf Yerba Mate inside
- Close appropriately
- Drop tea bag into your favorite mug
- Douse with a little cold water
- Add hot water to the desired amount
- Steep for as long as you’d like
- Sip, sip, sip and enjoy!
If you’re using a strainer. Put 2-3 teaspoons of the loose-leaf yerba into it, place over a cup, wet with cold water then pour hot water over leaves and through strainer into your favorite mug.
I’ve never personally brewed Yerba Mate with a coffee maker, and just wouldn’t. Coffee makers, if they’ve ever been used for coffee, usually impart coffee flavor into anything that goes in them, regardless of if you’re using a new filter, and I’m not about that. The other methods are convenient, easy and fun, so I don’t see a need to resort to that.
It’s important to note that many people, especially those who didn’t grow up drinking Yerba Mate, don’t like the amargo (bitter) taste of some stronger brands. People often add lemon or orange peels, some form of sugar (stevia, brown or cane sugar, etc.) or a few herbs to their concoctions in order to make it more delicious. Again, like Burger King, “have it your way.”
Despite what some traditionalists may claim, there is no one way to drink Yerba Mate. I believe, as long as people drink it, regardless of the form it’s in, the world will be better off because of it. At the sake of sounding “hippy-dippy,” Yerba Mate is truly more than a drink.
If you prepare your mate in one of these three ways, or have another that wasn’t mentioned here, please don’t be shy and leave a comment.
And, if you’re looking to grab some Yerba Mate, head to Yerba Mate Land and use the code “mateo10” for 10% off your entire order. Or, head to Circle of Drink and get yourself a gourd / bombilla using the same discount code.