Gourds. Ceramic cups. Silicone. Vidrio. Palo Santo. Fruits. Metal-wrapped. Leather-wrapped. Bullhorns. Cow feet. Stainless steel.
The types of mates, or drinking vessels for consuming the drink that’s more than a drink, also known as mate, are plenty. And, each type of mate can come in an almost infinite number of designs. Some prefer to have theirs plain, without any logos or drawings. Others prefer intricately carved and adorned works of art so that they can feel beauty in the palm of their hand as they sip on the frothy, or in the case of tereré, icy, nectar handed down to man by the goddesses of the moon and the cloud.
Regardless of what you prefer to drink out of, each lover of mate has their own go-to drinking vessel. It could be a gourd gifted to them by a friend who visited Buenos Aires, or perhaps a new-age silicone cup they saw online that caught their eye. Some people even designate specific mates for certain occasions, which vary based on the type of mate they’re drinking and who they’re drinking it with. Either way, your go-to mate is your go-to mate for your own reasons. Bonds are formed, and what matters most is the joy someone experiences while drinking out of it.
Below are a few types of mates and hypothetical characteristics that follow those who prefer them over others:
Gourds (scientific name: Lagenaria siceraria), or porongos, in Spanish, are drinking vessels that have existed for over 10,000 years. Yes, you read that correctly. 10,000 years. Researchers believe that gourds may have initially floated over to the Americas from Africa, but nothing has been confirmed yet. Either way, they are the oldest, and most natural, form of drinking mate.
People who prefer gourds as their go-to mates are traditionalists at heart. They may not shun the modern ways of drinking mate, but they can’t part with having a piece of nature in their hands. The feel of a hollowed out and dried gourd is like no other, and a special bond is formed when someone first cures it, taking care that it becomes less susceptible to mold and optimal for a delicious drinking experience. When you drink mate out of a gourd, you’re connecting with the most ancient roots of the beverage. Those who will only drink out of gourds are ancient warriors, shamans in training, soldiers of the earth and just about any other label you can apply to someone who prefers bare feet in the dirt than shoes on concrete.
Ceramic cups are common in places like Poland and Russia, where their quality of calabash gourds is low and ceramic cups offer a sturdier alternative. Those who claim ceramic cups as their go-to mates value convenience, both in the preparation of mate as well as disposing of the yerba afterward. For them, the yerba itself is the real prize, and a cup is no more than a pretty adornment to the entire experience. Unlike those who drink mate out of gourds, they’re not looking to connect with any deep history through drinking mate out of a ceramic cup. Instead, they want a boost of energy, better health and more power to seize the day.
In the same way that people who prefer ceramic cups to other types of mates value convenience and ease-of-use, those who espouse the advantages of silicone mates hold the same philosophies to be true, but to a more extreme extent. Silicone is one of the most hygienic and easy-to-clean methods of drinking mate. Those who prefer silicone as their go-to mate value speed in every way. Speed in the preparation of mate and speed in disposing of the yerba afterward. They are likely neat-freaks, especially given that you can fully wash silicone mates out, with soap and water, opposed to a gourd or wooden mate. These aren’t your die-hard lovers of Yerba Mate. They’re not traditionalists in any sense and don’t mind embracing all that mate is becoming in the 21st century: energy shots, capsules, bars, soaps, sodas and more. But, they still respect the tradition all the same. They’re progressive, forward-thinking and, like those who enjoy stainless steel mates (more on them below), they appreciate good design.
Like silicone and ceramic mates, glass mates are extremely easy to clean. If you’re someone who prefers the unwrapped glass mates, you likely have an endless amount of childlike curiosity, because you stare with wide-eyed amazement at seeing the water, poured from the top, makes its way into every tight crevice of the mate, and then see it being pulled in reverse, through the bombilla. You’re less traditional than those who swear by gourds, but also not as modern as those who prefer silicone mates, and certainly not as wild as those drinking mate directly from fruits (more on this below). You value ease-of-use during and after drinking mate, and if you prefer your glass to be wrapped in leather, or some other material, you certainly value comfort. People who drink mate out of vidrio likely also pour their beers into chilled mugs versus drinking straight out of the bottle. Nothing wrong with that.
While Palo Santo is a specific type of wood, commonly used to drink mate out of, we’ll use it to represent all other types of wood that mates can be made out of, such as carob. If a Palo Santo is your go-to mate, you value nature in the same way someone who prefers drinking mate out of a traditional gourd does. There’s something about having a piece of wood in your hand, and drinking directly out of it, that brings you extreme pleasure. Perhaps it’s the deep fragrance of pine trees and forests that draws you to them or the sap that sometimes seeps out of the mate as you drink out of it more and more. Maybe it’s the taste of the wood that the mate imports onto the frothy liquid. Either way, those who prefer wooden mates are likely also those who prefer mountains over the beach, camping over sunbathing, a starry night sky over a cloudless one and the hard way over easy way.
Stainless steel is for the artsy, modern drinkers of mate. In the same way that sleek industrial design often conveys a futuristic feel to any kitchen or office, stainless steel mates, especially when employing double-walled technology, represent a love of humanity’s upward movement; an appreciation for how we’ve become smarter, more automated and efficient with the way we can order anything from Amazon, buy groceries with the click of a button or no longer have to go to an actual movie theater to watch a movie. In this same vein, they respect quality, no-frills design that doesn’t distract from drinking mate. For them, drinking mate is a way to become more productive, achieve their goals and maintain the aesthetics of their lives that they’re working so hard to build. For them, less is more, which can be a great thing.
Drinking mate out of fruits is far from the norm. It’s not crazy, but it certainly is experimental. People who drink mate out of fruits, like oranges, melons, and lemons, aren’t afraid to be different. Hygiene isn’t a concern to them, at all, and they’re more like mad scientists than any other person who prefers another type of mate to drink out of. They’re individuals, possibly ahead of their time. Instead of purchasing blends of mate and ginger, orange, lemon, mint, etc., they’ve taken their drinking experiences into their own hands and work hard to find out what tastes best to them. They don’t like being told what to do and don’t cling to thoughts of tradition like someone drinking out of a gourd would. Unlike those who prefer stainless steel, they don’t care about design. Living out in the woods doesn’t have the same appeal to them as it does for those who drink out of wooden mates, but they’re also open to “getting off the grid,” even if that just means hanging out at home all day. And thoughts of “easy cleanup,” never even enter their mind in the same way it may for people who prefer silicone, glass or ceramic.
To buy a fruit mate, go to your nearest supermarket.
There’s no one path to drinking Yerba Mate
The beauty of Yerba Mate is that there’s no one way to drink it. Drink it however you like. The point is that you’re drinking it. Whether in a gourd or stainless steel cup, your go-to mate is whatever brings the most joy to your drinking experience. In the same way, some people like their mate amargo (bitter), while others prefer it dulce (sweet), one way isn’t better than the other because, when it comes to Yerba Mate, there is no better, only different; the same rule applies to humanity. So, grab your favorite mate, fill it with your most-beloved blend and drink on!
Have any comments or questions? Please share them below. The more the merrier. Also, note that the descriptions above are more on the satirical side than realistic.