If you're not Argentinian, you may not be familiar with all the ins and outs of mate drinking. We've prepared some tips for you, so you can slurp to your heart's delight.
First off, what is yerba mate? Funny you should ask. Yerba mate tea leaves hail from a species of holly tree (Ilex paraguariensis) - native to a region of northern Argentina, southern Brazil, and eastern Paraguay called the Matto Grosso or Interior Atlantic Forest. The Guarani Indians of South America first discovered the rejuvenating qualities and health benefits of yerba mate and gave the drink its name. Mate means “gourd” (the traditional drinking vessel) and yerba means “tea.” It tastes somewhat like green tea, with hints of tobacco and oak.
Yerba mate is popular throughout South America, and each country prepares and shares it in its won unique way. Argentinians are the biggest consumers of mate, slurping up 260,000 tons a year; that’s about 11 pounds per person. Here are some tips for preparing and drinking mate the Argentine way:
- Fill your gourd about ⅔ with loose yerba mate. Tap the yerba mate to one side of the gourd to create a “little mountain” and a “little valley” inside.
- Moisten the “little valley” with cool water. Just a splash. Don’t flood the town. This will protect the flavor and nutrients of the mate.
- Gently place the filter end of the bombilla (filter straw) into the “little valley.”
- Avoid Boiling Water: Boiling water makes the yerba bitter. Simmering water is ideal. Pour the simmering hot water into the “little valley” about halfway up the gourd, still keeping the tip of the “little mountain” dry.
- There’s no need to steep the tea forever. Once the hot water has been absorbed by the herbs and the mate is saturated, you are ready to rumble.
- Sugar, mint leaf, orange peel, honey, milk, etc.. are all welcome additions to the mate to provide extra layers of flavor. Enjoy your sipping!