As mate grows in popularity around the entire world – from countries like Poland to Russia to Bulgaria – the rise in demand for mate has resulted in more people being able to enjoy the drink that is truly more than a drink, but at a cost. And, I’m not referring to financial costs, even though folks in countries with the densest populations of materos, such as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, often do complain about rising prices and shortages. No, the cost that I’m talking about is quality. Production quality, safety standards, and the integrity of the equipo (equipment or kit) used to consume the actual beverage, which brings me to Un Mate.
The story behind Un Mate
In 2010, two brothers, Jeremy and Jonathan Kraayenbrink, were working for their family’s logistics company. As with most Argentinians, they were used to drinking liters of mate daily, regardless of if they were pasando el rato (hanging out) with friends, traveling, getting ready to start their day or looking to wind down after work.
It was then a light bulb went off – aha! They began uploading videos of their morning mate sessions in an effort to educate people on the drink, as well as form a strong online community around it. 80,000 worldwide followers later, Un Mate was born. And after establishing their presence in Argentina, as one of the most trusted producers of equipo de mate (gourds, bombillas, thermoses, materas and yerberas), they expanded globally. You can read the rest of their exciting story here.
Quality first, everything else second
When it comes to equipo de mate, quality varies. If you do a quick Google search for “Yerba Mate gourd,” you’ll see photos of a handful of different gourds ranging from delicate and cheap gourds that won’t last a week, to mid-range mates made out of porongo, ceramic, glass or other materials; you may even be able to spot a well-made piece of art that doesn’t only look great, but is also built to last, but that’s rare. Truthfully most mates out there, especially those being pushed by no-name brands, aren’t that great.
What’s worse is that the same lack of quality also exists in the world of bombillas, with some becoming rusted after a few uses, or flecking off pieces of metal into the mate itself. This is why the quality and integrity of the products you use is critical. In the same way that it’s always better to know where your food is coming from and how it’s made, it’s important to know that the products you purchase, especially when it comes to mate, are being made with care, attention and the customer in mind. So, if you purchase a gourd, bombilla, thermos or anything else from a company and aren’t satisfied, don’t buy from them again. In fact, let them know that you weren’t pleased so that they can improve.
Opinion of Un Mate’s products
Now that I’ve set the stage, it’s time to dive into Un Mate’s products. I own their matera, yerbera y azucarera, vaqueta mate and stainless steel bombilla. It’s important to note that before receiving Un Mate’s products, I had never owned a proper matera or yerbera.
Let’s start with the vaqueta mate. When I first received my products, I was taken aback by how aesthetically-pleasing they were. The light leather finish to the vaqueta, it’s genuine smell, and how thick the porongo is excited me. I spent about a day curing it, and since then I have had little to no mold. The only issue was that I, despite having consumed mate for years, made a rookie mistake and filled the gourd up to the absolute top when curing it, which made the metal rim loosen a bit. If I hadn’t done that, everything would be perfect. Aside from that, when I first held the vaqueta mate, I thought it was too big. I’m not a huge guy with huge hands, and appreciate a mate that fits snuggly in my own hand, so I thought drinking from the vaqueta wasn’t going to be comfortable, but it was! After using it a few times, it’s become my go-to mate due to its size (it can hold a solid amount of mate), the quality of the craftsmanship and how nice it is to look at as I’m working.
As for the bombilla, it rarely clogs and was the first time I ever used a flat-shaped bombilla. I was also curious about how I’d enjoy it, since I’ve only ever used round bombillas, but the flat-shape adds a layer of uniqueness to my experience, making it feel more special, which I appreciate. It rests easy against my mountain of dry mate, and only needs a quick rinse and a blow through the top to be cleaned.
Something I underestimated was how useful and convenient the yerbera and matera were. For me, a yerbera was always a bit of an unnecessary luxury. “Why use this when I can just put from the bag?” I thought. And while that sentiment isn’t off the mark, I like having a special place for me to put my mate, especially when bags sometimes rip or have small tears that don’t keep the mate as fresh. With a proper yerbera, I can ensure my mate is fresh as well as have a measured pour to achieve the exact amount of mate I want to drink.
With the matera, it’s just a convenient way of carrying all of my equipo around. I wouldn’t use it on a plane or when traveling long distances, because it would be just another bag to carry, which I don’t want, but it is nice for shorter trips. For example, if I’m going somewhere with the explicit purpose of enjoying a mate there, such as the beach, park, or a gathering of friends. What’s greatest about Un Mate’s matera is that it’s larger than it looks! I can comfortably carry a thermos, mate, yerbera, and a few bombillas without any issues. My only wish is that the strap was adjustable and not one-size-fits-all, because it doesn’t.
Overall thoughts on Un Mate
My overall thoughts are that, when considering high-quality equipo de mate that are made with care, attention and love by materos for materos, you can’t go wrong with Un Mate. Their products are built to last (I’ve used them for almost six months now), and I enjoy my experience with them even more as time goes on. Not only that, but interacting with Jeremy, Jonathan and their team is always a pleasure, and you can feel that instead of looking to make a quick buck, they’re dedicated to mate education, evangelism and making the world a better place through mate. Today, they export their products to over 25 countries on 5 continents and have no plans of stopping.