Yerba mate. The yawn-defeater.

Yerba Mate & El Camino Santiago: A Yerba Mate Journey from Spain to Ireland

Yerba Mate & El Camino Santiago

Hello, my name is Eoin. I’m 29 and I live in Ireland. I’ve recently just got back from a 7-week trip to Spain where I did the Camino Santiago. I started in the south of France, in St Jean, where I walked to Santiago de Compostela in Spain (799km). I continued on to Fisterra and Muxia, then back to Santiago again. Totaling over 900km.

When I was in Santiago, I couchsurfed and met some amazing people. While I was couchsurfing, I was introduced to Yerba Mate by a guy called Joaquin from Argentina. Joaquin is traveling around Spain for the next few months.

Joaquin, Maria (my Couchsurfing host) and myself, all sat in Maria’s kitchen as Joaquin explained how to make and drink Yerba Mate. This was the first time that I had Yerba Mate. I’d seen it before, but never know what it was.

Maria was a big fan of Yerba Mate already, as she had been drinking it for a while now. Maria had all the equipment in her house: the pumpkin, or gourd, which is the cup, the bombilla, which is the straw and the Yerba Mate. Joaquin told me all about the preparation steps, how to heat the water (below boiling), shake the Yerba Mate in the gourd and how to place the bombilla before pouring in the water.

There's nothing better than a hot gourd of mate!
There’s nothing better than a hot gourd of mate!

My first Yerba Mate circle

As Joaquin was the person making the Yerba Mate, he told me how to drink it as well as the cultural dos and don’ts of drinking it. He drank first and then topped up the Mate with more water before passing it to me. When I was done, I passed it back to him with the bombilla facing him. Joaquin topped it up again with more hot water then handed it to Maria.

We sat at Maria’s kitchen table for about 1.5 hours chatting, laughing and drinking Mate. We also ate crackers with a fruit preserve on top.

What I really loved about this experience was that drinking Yerba Mate was a very social thing. It is such a big part of Joaquin’s culture, and also one of the main ways he socializes with his family and friends. He told me that his friends would all sit in a circle, anywhere from 5-10 people, drinking Yerba Mate and chatting together.

I was so impressed by this experience that I couldn’t stop asking questions about where I could buy it and the equipment, as well as if there were any other ways to make it.  

Yerba mate. The yawn-defeater.
Yerba mate. The yawn-defeater.

My Yerba Mate journey from Spain to Ireland

I later left Santiago and went to Madrid to visit my brother and his wife. While in Madrid, I found an Argentine store. This is where I got my Yerba Mate, the gourd, and the bombilla. I was so excited to try it out, that I instantly Whatsapped Joaquin. He told me how to cure, wash and look after the gourd. When I got back home to Ireland a few days later, I cured the gourd and I’ve been drinking Yerba Mate 3-4 times a day since. I can’t wait to get more people into Yerba Mate, as it’s such a social and enjoyable thing.

If you haven’t tried Yerba Mate yet, I definitely recommend trying it. You can have it over ice, some people even add milk and sweeten it, too. There is also some herb-flavored Mate. I still need to try those

Joaquin and myself are still in touch as we are both very passionate about food and sharing Yerba Mate with as many people as possible.

I hope that you try Yerba Mate soon and enjoy it as much as I do.

All the best,

Eoin :)