Drinking Yerba Mate out of Algarrobo Wood
You can drink yerba mate out of whatever you want. From a casual mug, a cup, or even a jar. Anything that comes across your mind. However, there are special ‘cups’ (called mates (singular – mate) designed for drinking yerba. Such cups include gourds (made of hollowed out squash plants), palo santo (aromatic wood), or algarrobo. For this this article, I’m going to focus on the last one.
First and foremost, what’s the material used for making this mate? The wood that’s used comes from a tree called, in Latin, ‘prosopsis alba.’ It is a plant that grows, among others, in South America – the homeland of Yerba Mate. Algarrobo and palo santo mates are one of the most popular wooden yerba mate cups.
The Pros of Algarrobo Wood
When you look at algarrobo, the first thing you see is its distinct colour, which is something between rusty and beige, or, in other words, it’s a mix of light brown and orange with a hint of red. This colour brings up Africa to my mind, or hot, South America’s pampas. Baobabs, acacias; even shamanic instruments used to play folklore music. When I grab it, thesSurface feels slightly rough, as if covered with scabs. The wood is porous, yet hard – this sponge like structure is responsible for the fact that the algarrobo cup is relatively lightweight, compared to more “solid” palo santo.
One of the things I like the most about algarrobo is its smell. When you want to describe it, words such as “Africa,” “bark,” “shamanic instruments,” and ‘desert” come in handy. Besides just a smell being a smell, it also affects the taste of the yerba mate infusion. All these things combined result in unique experience during a drinking session.
The Cons of Algarrobo Wood
If it comes to downsides of the algarrobo, then there’s one, though not major. As I mentioned, it’s porous and it lacks the anti-septic resin of palo santo, therefore it is more prone to molding. But don’t worry! It’s not like a mold magnet; what I’m trying to say here is that you have to take slightly more care of it. It won’t mold in one hour, however, you should avoid leaving the herb inside it for 24 hours straight.
In order to keep the mold away, I like emptying the cup after drinking, rinsing it with warm water, then drying it with paper towel before leaving it on its side overnight to completely dry.
If you suspect that something may be wrong, then do the trick above and leave the cup for a few days to eradicate the fungi.
Another thing you should avoid is drinking from it 24/7, because it’s easy to ‘forget’ about your mate, and then you’re left with a problem. BUT, if you take the mentioned care, everything is going to be fine, you’ll have an amazing, exotic cup for you delicious brew.
Different Varieties of Algarrobo Wood
Now, let’s look at some everyday aspects of carob wood, which is Algarrobo’s other name. In our market, we can find three different varieties of such mate.
The first one is algarrobo wrapped entirely with metal – without wrapping the interior of course. It’s the most handy and convenient one. You can dump it in your bag and go for a journey.
The second one is partially wrapped. Provides slight protection, but it’s not as durable as the first, though.
The third one has the highest popularity. This version isn’t wrapped with metal at all. One should take care of it, avoid dumping it, scratching or damaging it in any other way. Many people worry, that this algarrobo is prone to cracking due to heat and unstable humidity. This is wrong, because EVERY wood that isn’t wrapped is either doomed for cracking or blessed with being “flawless.” It’s a matter of the wood’s structure, whether the wood’s going to break as a result of drinking out of it.
Maintaining Your Algarrobo Mate
There was a day when me and my two buddies got three algarrobos; all from the same producer. They looked almost identical. None of them have cracked to this day. There’s one minor, external crack, which showed after just a few days of use, but it doesn’t make the cup unable to drink out of. It doesn’t leak or increase in size.
On the other hand, I know a person that had got the carob wood, and it cracked after three days of drinking, so he couldn’t do anything about it.
The last thing I wanted to talk about is maintenance. We buy the cup, receive it, and then the question of “what now?” pops into our heads. There’s plenty of information on the Internet that suggest rubbing your mate with butter, leaving it overnight, doing a ritual dance, rinsing it, rubbing it again, rinsing it again, and then drinking. BUT a simple rinse will do. You can rub it with coconut oil, but don’t go crazy with it. It’s going to be fine.
Finally, we come to an end. I swear by algarrobo. It’s really durable, hard and classy; magically fragrant cups that are great piece for the puzzle of your mate collection.
Jan Skibicki 2018