Traveling and yerba mate go together like two peas in a pod, white on rice and any other inseparable pair you can imagine. Some people can’t go on a road trip without preparing a frothy gourd of the bitter nectar of the gods. Others need to ensure they take enough pounds for their month long excursions around the world. And some just like to take mate with them to the park, school, work or anywhere else not too far, but far enough to put some thought into the what and how of transporting, storing and cleaning up their mate.
Regardless of where you’re going, below are a few tips on how to travel with yerba mate and not make a mess. I’ve broken the tips out into three sections based on the most important aspects to traveling with mate: storage of the yerba, storage of your mate equipment and not making a mess after enjoying a few gourds.
How to store and transport yerba mate
Storing and transporting yerba mate, regardless of how far you’re traveling, can be a nightmare. Dust can get all over your clothes, bags can become punctured in your luggage and, worst of all, you can end up losing a large amount of mate before you even prepare your first gourd.
Transporting yerba mate by plastic bag
A quick do-it-yourself (DIY) way of storing and transporting mate is by putting it in a plastic ziploc bag. The size of your plastic bag will depend on how far you’re traveling, or how long you’ll be away for, but it’s a standard method of storing and transporting the yerba from one place to another. While you could put your yerba in any old plastic bag, it’s best to put it in a ziploc bag. The bags tight locking mechanism will keep your yerba fresh and prevent spilling. What’s also great about them is that they don’t take up a lot of space and can fit in any larger bag, suitcase or carry-on. However, I call this the quick, DIY method because it’s sufficient, but not the best. Carrying anything in a plastic bag brings the risk of the bag popping. And, if the bag pops, there’s going to be a mess. So if you’re traveling somewhere local where you won’t actually have to place the bag into any tight spaces, this is fine. But for longer distances and cramped luggage, you’ll want something sturdier, such as the option below.
Transporting yerba mate by a yerbera
What’s a yerbera, you ask? A yerbera is a container that holds your yerba (loose-leaf mate). Containers are typically made out of tin or aluminum, and have a retractable spout at the top, which makes pouring your yerba into your mate of choice (gourd, ceramic, glass or silicone cup, etc.) far easier. They also usually have some sort of design on the outside, making them fashionable and pleasing to the eye. Yerberas are efficient to store and transport mate with because they’re sturdy, but one potential downfall is that some don’t close too tightly at the top, increasing the possibility of spilling your mate through the retractable spout or the entire top opening up. This would be horrible. To ensure it doesn’t happen, you can tape the spout and top of the tin to the sides, but this is only necessary if you’re laying the yerbera down horizontally and traveling in a way where your bag will bounce around a ton e.g. plane or bus.
Transporting yerba mate by plastic food container
The most reliable way of transporting yerba mate is with a plastic food container, such as tupperware. Like yerberas, they’re sturdy, but they’re less likely to open up if you get a higher quality product with a top that snaps securely onto the container. Given that many of them are hard plastic, there’s no risk of anything puncturing or crushing them. They’re not as convenient as yerberas, in terms of pouring the yerba directly into your mate, but that’s a tradeoff most people are willing to take. Another tradeoff is space, which plastic food containers may take much of, depending on how much yerba you’re transporting. Unlike a plastic bag, plastic food containers can be bulky and will certainly make themselves known in your luggage, but they’ll also keep your yerba fresh and secure.
Transporting yerba mate by original packaging
You can, of course, transport mate in the original package it comes in. However, many of the packages that companies place the mate in are flimsy and easily teared. So, this isn’t recommended unless you store them safely in your bag and wrap them in a few layers of clothing. If you’re transporting mate by plane, it’s important to consider airport security. You may be stopped and questioned. How you respond will depend on how much time you want to spend explaining yourself. The easy response is that it’s just a South American tea. The longer response is explaining yerba mate to airport security who, if you’re not in South America, likely won’t know what it is. Be mindful of that.
How to store and transport mate equipment
How you store and transport your mate equipment (gourds, bombillas and thermos) depends on the risks you’re willing to take. Some people don’t mind the possibility of opening their bags to cracked gourds and dented thermoses, but others would rather not take the chance.
Transporting mate equipment in luggage
Before I received a matera (more on this below), I always transported my mate equipment via backpack. I’d pack large ziploc bags of mate tightly next to one another (and away from anything, like pens, that could puncture them) and wrap my gourds in two to three layers of socks to insulate them against any potential collisions. Bombillas would go in the same place I’d keep my pens, which would be a smaller, separate compartment at the top of my bag. This method is fine, but it’s not the most secure since you never know how your things may move around while in transit, or if someone will accidentally grab your bag and drop it, etc.
Transporting mate equipment in a matera
A matera is a bag specifically designed to hold your mate equipment. In terms of quality, they range from basic cloth to elegant leather bags with hard plastic on the inside. You get what you pay for, but a standard canvas matera will do the trick. They often have separate compartments for gourds, yerberas, bombillas and thermoses. What’s greatest about materas is that they’re specifically made to carry your mate equipment, which allows you to isolate it from your other luggage and keep all of your equipment safe and secure. The cost is that it’s another bag to carry, and you may end up having to pay for it if you’re traveling by plane.
Not making a mess with yerba mate
How to drink yerba mate on-the-go and not make a mess
Sometimes you don’t just want to store and travel with mate, but you also want to drink it! There’s nothing better than passing a gourd among friends while on a plane, train, bus, in a car or even just enjoying some mate on your own while in transit. Drinking mate while traveling is something everyone should experience, as it helps calm the nerves and enjoy the act of traveling versus dreading it. But drinking mate, even when not traveling, can be messy business. Preparing a gourd takes time, mate sometimes spills when you’re pouring it, water can miss the hole and burn your hand and disposing of the mate afterwards is a task in and of itself.
What I like to do is make sure I prepare my gourd in a place where a small mess (maybe some polvo falling on the ground, water spilling, etc.) is acceptable. On a plane, it’s in the bathroom. In a car, it’s in the backseat. On a train, possibly the bathroom or my seat, if it’s large enough. I take a bit more care while pouring in the mate, as well as the water. Then, I enjoy for hours while reading, writing, listening to music or anything else I like to do while traveling.
Once I’m finished, I head to wherever the garbage is located (better if in a bathroom), and scoop out the insides of the gourd with my bombilla or a spoon, if I have one (this is why scraper bombillas a best travel with). Afterwards, I pour water, either left in my thermos or from a water bottle, into the gourd and throw it out into the garbage or sink. If I’m in a car that can stop, I just do it on the side of the road. It’s all organic material, after all.
If you’re drinking out of a gourd, this last step is important. I always carry a few paper towels or napkins with me, which I stuff into my gourd after I’m done using it. This helps to speed up the drying process and prevent mold. Once you arrive at your destination, you can just take the paper towel out and set the gourd on its side to dry.
And there you have it! A few solid methods of storing, transporting, drinking and traveling with mate without making a mess. If you have any of your own tips, or questions, please leave them below. The more the merrier.
If you enjoyed this piece, you’ll love these:
- From Argentina to Brazil to Costa Rica: Why Drinking Yerba Mate Is like a Blind Date
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- Why We’ll Never Travel Without Yerba Mate
- Happiness Is Real Only When Shared: How Yerba Mate Changed My Life