So, you’d like to start drinking Yerba Mate? A perfect choice, if I may say so myself. Yerba Mate comes with a long list of reasons people love it: health benefits, community, tradition, history and more. Many people call the “Drink of Friendship” more than a drink, and for good reason. To drink Yerba Mate traditionally, with a gourd, bombilla and loose-leaf herb, requires one to navigate the waters of the ritual, which includes loose rules for preparation, serving and drinking. Use this guide as a way of becoming familiar, or even just brushing up, with the top Yerba Mate dos and donts.
Top things to do with Yerba Mate
Drink Yerba Mate with friends
As legend goes, Yerba Mate was handed down to man as a token of friendship from the Goddesses of the Moon and Cloud for saving them from a jaguar. While drinking Yerba Mate alone is fine, and often preferred if you have work to do, nothing beats sharing it with a group of friends or family. When mate is shared amongst friends, new and old, bonds are formed, conversations happen and people feel a certain sense of appreciation and love for one another that is often forgotten in the rush of our day-to-day lives.
Try different brands of Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate may not have as many brands, blends and bouquets as wine or cheese, but it’s up there. And, it’s only growing. There are dozens of types South American brands of Yerba Mate, as well as a handful in the United States. Some companies source their Yerba Mate from the same places, but many don’t. So while you may find yourself enjoying the bitter taste of a certain brand, it’s important to venture out and experiment with others. You may be surprised that there are other flavors and ways of describing Yerba Mate beyond “light” and “harsh.” And the types of Yerba Mate out there all depend on how they’re grown, processed, stored and blended.
Take your time preparing Yerba Mate
One of the best things about having a gourd of Yerba Mate is the preparation of it. It causes you to slow down, focus and take care. If you pour too much loose-leaf yerba in the gourd, you’ll have to refill it every second. If the water is too hot, the mate will taste more burnt than it should. If you don’t place the bombilla in correctly, it will clog. The list goes on and on. Drinking Yerba Mate is the opposite of being in a rush. And, if you do find yourself in a rush and still want some delicious mate, feel free to brew it in a tea bag, french press or any other quick, on-the-go method you have.
Slurping when you’re done drinking Yerba Mate
Even though your parents probably yelled at you for slurping your soup, with Yerba Mate, slurping is encouraged! When you come to the end of your gourd, that noise is a sign that it’s done, and it’s not considered rude for someone to slurp a bit to make sure they’ve fully drained the gourd. So, don’t be shy and slurp away.
Tell others about Yerba Mate
Those who drink Yerba Mate consistently (more than once or twice a week) drink it because they’re getting something out of it. Maybe they love how it wakes them up. Or perhaps they enjoy the level of focus and clarity it brings to their workdays. Hell, they may just like the act of preparing a gourd of mate in the morning and pouring water out of a thermos. Regardless, if you find yourself as someone who enjoys Yerba Mate, tell others about it! While there’s a long tradition of drinking Yerba Mate in countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Southern Brazil, Syria and Poland, there are still tons of people, especially in North America (United States and Canada) who don’t know about it. At MateOverMatter, we sincerely believe that Yerba Mate is necessary today, and that the more people who drink it, the better the world will be.
Top things not to do with Yerba Mate
Preparing Yerba Mate with boiling water
When preparing Yerba Mate, you want to drink it with water that is hot, but not boiling. Firstly, because drinking anything at extremely hot temperatures can lead to certain types of cancer. So, don’t do that. Secondly, because you will burn the loose-leaf yerba, making it taste, well, burnt. If you do happen to boil water, just let it cool off for a bit before adding it to your gourd. All will be well.
Hogging the mate when drinking with friends
There’s a saying in South America when someone is hogging the mate: “No es un micrófono!” That means, “It’s not a microphone!” If someone hands you the mate, there’s no need to rush drinking it, but you also don’t want to hold onto it forever, because others are surely waiting their turn to have some. Be courteous and don’t hog the gourd.
Stirring the bombilla
Don’t ever stir the bombilla (filtered metal straw). Plain and simple. Stirring the bombilla isn’t only something long-time drinkers of Yerba Mate love to yell at newbies, but there’s a real and practical reason for it. If you stir the bombilla, you will increase the chances of clogging it, which will then cause the cebador (server) to have to fix it, interrupting the flow of good times and conversation you’re likely having. Or, if you’re alone, it’ll take you out of the zone of whatever you’re doing. But if the bombilla does clog up, just move it forward and backwards once or twice and it should be fine.
Knocking it before you try it
“Man, what is this s***?” is a question I asked my brother before ever trying Yerba Mate. I was close-minded, and didn’t even want to try it since I couldn’t understand what it was. Leaves in a dried gourd and a filtered metal straw? No thanks, is what I thought. Man, was I wrong. When I finally did come around and tried Yerba Mate for the first time, I was immediately hooked. The energy it gave me, the clarity, creativity and overall feeling of wellness was hard for me to ignore. Given that many people still don’t know about Yerba Mate, it’s easy to knock it, sort of like personal computers back in the 1970s, and now look. Even if you end up not liking Yerba Mate, give it a try! At least you’ll know that you had your own experience instead of going off of second-hand information.
Pouring the water in when you’re not the cebador
You may think you’re being helpful by grabbing the thermos and refilling the mate (gourd) for the person who’s up next, but you’re not! That is the job of the person who prepares it, also known as the cebador. He or she is in control of the preparation and serving of the mate. When you’re done drinking, just pass it back to them and they’ll refill it before handing it either back to you (if only two of you are drinking it) or over to someone else.
The beauty of Yerba Mate
One of the most beautiful aspects of Yerba Mate is that the more it spreads throughout the world, the more it changes. People in many places now drink Yerba Mate out of glass bottles, cans, fruits (yeah, hollowed out fruits) and more. And while tradition is tradition, these rules serve more as a guidelines, which can always be altered if you’d like to create your own traditions. Change is the only constant in the world, so embrace it.