On days when I need a little extra pep in my step at the teahouse, I love brewing myself up a gourd of our house blended Maple Maté Cacao. Earthy yerba maté plus cacao nibs plus maple syrup? Not only is it crazy delicious, but it definitely gets me moving. What more do you want?
For those of you unfamiliar with this gourd of deliciousness, this blog post is for you!
Quick Recipe (more details below!)
- Scoop 4-8 tablespoons (or 7-15g) of Maté into a gourd with a bombilla (or a teabag if using a larger brewing vessel)
- Sweeten with maple syrup if desired (it is pretty delicious but definitely not necessary)
- Pour hot water into your vessel of choice – do not use boiling water – and steep to taste
- Drink away!
What is Yerba Maté?
‘Yerba Maté’ is a drink indigenous to South America, the name coming from both Spanish and Quechua and basically meaning ‘herbs in a gourd.’ ‘Maté’ is a term that both refers to the drink and the drinking vessel. The herb itself comes from the naturally caffeinated leaves of a native species of the holly tree, Ilex Paraguariensis, found in South American rainforests. This specific beverage and the way it is drunk today is documented as first being consumed in this style by the Guarani people (an umbrella term for a group of tribes) who ranged parts of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Other species of holly have also been documented as consumed in a beverage form or chewed on by indigenous people in many parts of both North and South America.
Similarly to tea, Maté is accompanied by a long and varied history of colonization determining where, how, and why it was grown and to whom it was sold. Probably a history that is a little too extensive for this post but can be answered by some of the sources down below if you’re interested. Today, most Yerba Maté is grown in either Brazil, Paraguay, or Argentina, with Argentina being the leading exporter. Yerba Maté leaves are harvested, roasted, matured, and then dried all before being packaged and sold. It has a host of known health benefits that we won’t get into here (also can be found in the sources below), but there certainly is proof that it’s pretty good for you!
Alright, well, how do you drink it?
Traditionally, a calabash or wooden gourd is filled with Yerba Maté leaf around two thirds of the way up (a whole lotta leaf) and then topped off with hot water. It is then sipped through a metal or reed straw called a bombilla that filters the leaf out and allows you to drink only the infusion. Many cultures historically have had different ritualistic ceremonies associated with this process. In the modern day in many places in South America there is a communal process to sharing mate with one another where everyone in a group shares one gourd and bombilla and it is re-steeped for each person. If you are drinking just one gourd for yourself, you can re-steep it throughout an entire day if you put enough leaf in! Alternatively, popular in Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina is something called Tereré which is a version of Yerba Maté that is brewed with cold water and often infused with other medicinal herbs or fruit juice. Delicious on a hot summer day! Tereré is the official drink of Paraguay, while Yerba Maté is the official drink of Argentina.
If you’re hoping to make some Yerba Maté at home here are some methods you can use! You can use the gourd and bombilla, a teabag in a larger brewing vessl, or you can make it iced. Here at the teahouse we usually do it with a gourd and bombilla, but we’ll share with you each of these methods.
Traditional Maté – Gourd
Start with your maté of choice, perhaps one of our two organic options; the unsmoked or the smoked. Put your bombilla in the bottom of the gourd. Putting it in before the water and under the leaves helps to keep any tiny pieces of leaf out of the bombilla and therefore out of what you’re drinking. Put a couple of scoops of yerba maté into the gourd on top of the bombilla, depending on how strong you like it (or how caffeinated you want to be). You can fill it up almost 2/3 of the way if you want it pretty hefty, but a couple of spoonfuls is just fine too! If you want to sweeten it with honey or maple syrup, now is the time (it pairs very well maple). Next, top it off with some hot water. You never want to use boiling water as it can scald the leaf and make the infusion rather bitter, as well as make the metal bombilla hot so it burns you, too. Slightly cooled water is just fine, but you still want it hot to extract the full flavor. There you go! You’ve got some delicious maté ready for sipping!
Teabag – Larger Brewing Vessel
If you don’t have a gourd or maybe want to make a larger amount than a gourd will allow you to, you can use a teabag in a mug or a large teapot for sharing. Fill up a teabag with a few scoops (4-8 tablespoons or 7-15g) of your maté of choice and place it in your vessel. Fill up the vessel with hot water and steep 3-5 minutes to taste. Remove the tea bag, and there’s your maté!
Iced – Larger Brewing Vessel
You can use the guidelines laid out in this blog post on iced teas for Yerba Maté too. It can be brewed in teabags, or loose and then strained out. You may want a fine strainer as some maté leaf can be pretty fine.
Feel free to experiment with these methods and let us know what works for you. I certainly love Yerba Maté and hope some of you come to love it too!
Sources and Extra Reading
Yerbamatero. “The History and Origins of Yerba Mate.” Yerbamatero.com.
Yerbamatero. “The Colonial History of Yerba Mate.” Yerbamatero.com. https://yerbamatero.com/blogs/history/colonial-history-yerba-mate
Hooker, Sheree. “Yerba Mate: South America’s Most Social Drink.” South America Backpacker. August 1, 2020. https://southamericabackpacker.com/mate-drink/
Gawron-Gzella, A., Chanaj-Kaczmarek, J., & Cielecka-Piontek, J. (2021). Yerba Mate-A Long but Current History. Nutrients, 13(11), 3706. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13113706
Ricca, Javier. “El Mate.” Sudamerica. November 1st, 2012. https://www.amazon.com/El-mate-Spanish-Javier-Ricca-ebook/dp/B00A84RNQC