Hygiene of Mate, the Friend Full of Bacteria [The Dos and Don’ts of Mate]

Mate is the most popular infusion within Argentina, and yet nobody has ever accused it of being responsible of an infectious outbreak; nonetheless, specialists give some advice regarding hygiene after each “mateada” (the act of consuming Mate either in a group or alone).

Mate is perhaps the most loyal friend to the Argentines. And is, above all, a certificate of confidence. In these lands where people distrust almost everything, nobody hesitates to share a straw (to share a Mate). But this habit, so natural to us, makes any stranger become alarmed.

Does Mate transmit germs? In what ways should we clean the gourd? How do we clean the straw? What happens when microorganisms grow in the interior of the receptacle? Nobody wants to ask themselves these questions when you receive a Mate from a stranger. It’s clear that this infusion hasn’t taken part in any epidemic outbreak yet, but perhaps it’s time for us to find out the answers to these questions.

For that, “La Nación Newspaper” talked to Daniel Stecher, sub-chief of infectology of the “Hospital de Clínicas,” who explained: “Mate is a custom which is extremely attached to our country and yet no diseases transmitted via the respiratory system nor other biological materials (As in the case of Hepatitis B or HIV) in which sharing mate has been the mechanism of transmission have been found. However, and considering the theoretical risk, it’s suggested that those people who have some kind of respiratory disease (i.e. flu) keep themselves from sharing mate until the disease has been overcome.”

Doctor Lilián Testón, coordinator of the area of epidemiology of the “Fundación Centro de Estudios Infectologicos (Funcei), of the Stamboulian Group, said that–when we share the infusion–it’s a high possibility that we can get some viruses as well as bacteria and diseases. And she added: “A way of transmission can be the water, which may not be drinkable. The second thing is the straw, due to the saliva”. And suggested: “The appropriate thing would be not sharing Mate, but as it’s a cultural thing in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, that would be a pretty difficult thing to do.”

Friends enjoying Yerba Mate on Long Island, New York

She also pointed out: “It’s advisable to drink mate with people we know or with relatives, not in larger groups. That the people we are drinking it with are healthy, and that they don’t have any apparent symptoms of respiratory diseases”. In regards today pregnancy, she said: “In pregnant people the idea of sharing mate should be restricted to the maximum and that the use of it should only exclusive of the person.”

The specialist also focused on the necessity of taking “certain cares” when drinking the infusion. And pointed out: “It’s important to be cautious with the selection of who we drink mate with. Then, washing the gourd and straw with hot water after we use it. And drying it, because if you leave it 24 hours exposed to a normal temperature, depending on the climate it starts to grow bacteria due to the humidity of the Yerba.”
Steps to better mate hygiene

Karla Johan, sommelier specialist on the area of tasting yerba mate and the author of the book “El libro de la yerba mate,” pointed out that to enjoy a good mate, before anything else, we have to cure it. And added: “Once the calabaza (gourd) is well cured and we start to drink from that receptacle it’s convenient that after each mateada we wash it let it drain and leave it with the mouth pointing upwards”. “The biggest mistake people do when they wash it is leaving it upside down (that’s to say with the mouth pointing downwards) and in that way is when bacteria start to grow”.

According to Karla, in Argentina people consume an average of six kilos of yerba mate, each person. A research that the “National Institute of Yerba Mate (INYC, in Spanish), through a public opinion consultant, “Services and Markets (OPSM, acronym also in Spanish), manifested that 98% of homes of Argentina consume yerba mate and that 92% drinks mate with a straw.

Additional info (from myself): (This may regard to the uses of Yerba Mate which not only can be consumed as we know it but also as “mate cocido”, that is yerba mate with milk).

“In the ritual of drinking mate the idea of sharing the bombilla (straw), is extremely attached (ingrained)”, said Johan and when she talked about it the pointed out the importance of the consumer of using a straw made of alpaca or surgical steel, due to being products which adapt quite easily and its materials are not that expensive. And suggested: “At least once in month we have to boil them in hot water during around 30 minutes with two tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate. After, with a brush cleaning inside for any left yerba that may be in it.

For a practical use as well as hygienic, sommelier advised using gourds made of glass or ceramic. “These are the most neutral products, more recommendable, as well as for the office or for a trip, that if you forgot throwing out the Yerba and you don’t have time to clean the gourd, you throw, wash and start again.”

How to prepare a good mate?

According to Karla Johan, to prepare a good mate follow these steps: take a receptacle, “gourd,” fill it three quarters of it with your ideal yerba. Then, you put the palm of your hand covering the mouth of the gourd, turn it upside down and shaking it energetically. This allows us to mix the ingredients and avoiding the bombilla (straw) to get blocked. We go back to the initial step, leaving a little canal in which we put the warm water (40º), it’s fundamental to make this process for the Yerba not to get burned. We follow the steps putting the bombilla in the canal, deep inside. Then we start drinking it with the water on the “termo”, which should be between 80º and 85º.

As well for a badly cured mate (gourd) or a mate that has been left out for many days and got full of bacteria or Fungus, the specialist in Yerba Mate recommends throw the yerba away, fill the recipient with boiling water till the top and leave it a few minutes there. Then throw the water away and with a spoon scrape the sort of skin that is left inside. Once this humidity skin has been scraped, wash it again. In case we want to keep using the gourd, we should cure the mate again as long as a week hasn’t passed and the receptacle is black inside. If the spoon has been used to scrap the humidity skin of inside the gourd, and you still see it’s shiny beneath that darker layer, it is because mate still can be saved beneath that layer, if not we have to throw it away and start the curing process again with another mate.

For the original article (In Spanish) , click here


3 thoughts on “Hygiene of Mate, the Friend Full of Bacteria [The Dos and Don’ts of Mate]

  1. matecocido is done also with water
    i like it a lot
    sometimes its easier to carry, or to prepare and drink faster than the gourd-straw method
    put about 3 spoons of yerba for 600ml of cold water on a pot, bring to boil for …..a bit,,, take out of heat and pur a little cold water on top,,, it brings all leaves to the botom!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *