Yerba mate tea is a traditional brew that is prepared by steeping the leaves of the Yerba mate tree in hot water. It was the indigenous Guaraní people who lived in the region what is now known as Paraguay who first discovered how to make Yerba Mate tea and take advantage of its amazing rejuvenating properties. It has since become a favorite social drink among most South Americans. Its acerbic, woody taste may be a turn off for lovers of sweet sugary drinks, but its amazing health benefits have started to draw the attention of health conscious consumers around the world.
How to Prepare Yerba Mate the Traditional Way
In South America, the Yerba Mate tea is drunk both hot and cold. The tea is prepared using a mate gourd and is sipped with a metal straw with a strainer at one end, called the bombilla. Nowadays, metal, ceramic, and wooden mate cups are available to prepare yerba mate tea. In a social gathering, the host of the party usually has the first round, and then more fresh hot water is added and passed around to the others.
Yerba Mate can be made the traditional way or using modern methods. Although preparing Yerba Mate is not a complicated affair, you need to keep a few points in mind when you are preparing it the traditional way.
Curing the Mate Gourd
If its your first time preparing Yerba Mate tea in the traditional fashion, you need to cure the gourd before use. This will season the gourd by removing the soft inner tissues and thereby removing some of the bitter, inner flavor of the gourd. To cure the gourd, here’s what you need to do:
1. Put two table spoons of mate inside the gourd.
2. Fill the gourd up to the rim with boiling water and let it sit for about 24 hours.
3. Empty out the gourd and rinse it. Then carefully scrape out the soft membrane from the gourd with a metal spoon. You can place the gourd under running water to make the job easy. Take care not to remove the stem of the gourd that is in the center.
4. Repeat this process one more time.
5. Leave the cured gourd out to dry, preferably under sunlight, for a day or two.
The gourd is now ready for use.
How to Make Yerba Mate
1. Boil some hot water in a kettle.
2. Add a few tablespoons of Yerba mate tea leaves into the gourd.
3. Cover the mouth of the gourd with your hands and shuffle it back and forth. This is done to move the heavier stems and sticks to the top of the gourd and the light powdery ones to the bottom.
4. Now tilt the gourd such that the leaves are in a slope. Place the bombilla inside the gourd against the leaves. This ensures that the strainer at the end of the bombilla keeps the powdery leaves intact, while the loose stems at the top act as an additional filter.
5. Add a little bit of cool water into the gourd and wait for a few seconds for it to be absorbed. This is done to prevent the hot water from damaging the nutrients and for the leaves to retain their original flavors.
6. Now add the hot water (160–180 °F) from the kettle. Make sure the water is not boiling hot as it will make a bitter brew.
Your tea is now ready to sip from the bombilla.
Other Methods for Yerba Mate Preparation
Using a Coffee Maker
You can also prepare Yerba Mate with your good old coffee maker. Add the desired quantity of yerba mate leaves into the coffee pot where you would put the coffee grounds. (Four tablespoons for a twelve cup pot should be good.) Add a dash of cold water to bring out the flavor of the leaves and protect it. Then add water to the coffee maker and plug it on.
Using a French Press
Add one and a half teaspoons of yerba mate for every one cup of water when using a French Press. Place the desired quantity of tea leaves in the French Press. Add a splash of cold water to protect the nutrients and retain the flavor. After a few seconds, add hot water. Allow it to steep for about 3-6 minutes. Then press and serve.
If you don’t plan on drink Yerba Mate all day long, you can brew yourself a single serve of tea. Steep half an ounce of yerba mate in a strainer or tea ball and add a splash of cool water over it. Then steep it in hot water for about 3 minutes and its ready for sipping.
You can also take advantage of the convenience of tea bags to brew yourself a Yerba mate. Add one tea bag in an eight ounce cup. Add hot water and serve.
Iced Yerba Mate
If you like it cold and strong, add about 3-4 tablespoons of mate in a coffee pot. Add 10-12 cups of water and brew it. Then pour the freshly brewed tea over the existing yerba mate leaves to prepare a stronger concoction. Pour it into a pitcher, add about 10 ice cubes to it and sweeten with sugar or honey if desired. Enjoy!
Now that you know how to make Yerba Mate the tradional and non-traditional way, enjoy your cup of this healthy brew hot or cold, and with or without flavors and sweeteners.
How about you? Do you consume Yerba Mate tea? What’s your favorite method for preparing this drink?