Just as there is a correct way to prepare and drink mate, it is also important to know the treatment, cleaning and maintenance process of the container where it is drunk in order to live the genuine experience of a good «mateada». Treating a gourd mate or a wooden mate properly allows sealing its pores well, so that the material’s own flavor does not affect the yerba mate infusion and fungus is not generated.
Although nowadays mates made of glass, ceramic, steel, silicone and even plastic (materials that are not permeable and do not affect the flavor of the yerba) are easily found, for the traditional bitter and hot yerba mate, mates made of organic materials such as gourd or wood are usually used, which must be prepared (treated) before being used.
Likewise, mates should be treated according to the type of yerba mate beverage to be drunk. If it is sweet mate, for example, it should be drunk in a container treated for sweet mate that will always preserve this flavor; and it should never be used for bitter mate. If bitter mate is drunk in a container previously treated for sweet mate, the qualities of the mate change. More information about sweet mate here.
When it comes to a gourd mate, the treatment of the mate is very important. To treat the mate, we fill it with yerba mate and add hot water. We let it rest until the next day. Then we scrape very well the internal walls of the mate with a spoon to eliminate the woody stem. This procedure can be repeated several times for more effectiveness. When the stem has been completely removed, the mate should be rinsed and left to dry in the sun. And it is ready to use.
After drinking mate, all the yerba should be thrown away and not left there for a long time. Rinse, drain the mate and turn it face up to dry. A common mistake is to turn it upside down, which favors the appearance of fungus, according to expert Karla Johan. For people who are short on time, a glass matte could be much easier to clean every day.
The bombilla is perhaps the most delicate part, since it is shared with other people. It is advisable to purchase a stainless steel, silver or nickel silver bombilla, and keep it clean by immersing it in boiling water, depending on the frequency of time and use.
For the sweet mate, it is common to use a type of gourd mate called «poro» or «pera» because of its shape. After washing and disinfecting the container with very hot water, add two spoonfuls of sugar inside the mate, cover the mouth and shake it so that the sugar adheres to the internal walls and coats them. Let it dry for a few hours. When it is dry, put two lit coals inside the mate, cover it and shake it until the embers are extinguished, and repeat the process.
A well-treated wooden mate lasts a long time in good condition and allows you to better enjoy the flavor of the yerba. The procedure is very simple, although the technique may vary according to the local culture. A common way to cure wooden mates is to smear them well with butter, oil or bovine fat, so that the gourd does not crack or accumulate humidity. Another technique consists of washing very well and filling the mate with the used yerba from the last time you drunk mate and then constantly moistening it with warm water for 24 hours, repeating this process for two or three days, which is the amount of time a mate should be treated.
It is advisable to protect the matte from the humidity to which it is exposed. To waterproof the wooden mate, it is sufficient to apply a coat of synthetic varnish or colorless, totally moisture-proof lacquer.
Fungi in mate usually appear in the form of a white coating. To clean a wooden mate with fungus or a gourd mate with fungus, it is necessary to wash thoroughly with a brush, detergent and hot water. After this, we dry it very well and proceed to fill the walls of the mate with ethyl alcohol and light them with fire. This will remove any remaining fungus.
The mate ritual is based on sharing the infusion among a group of friends or even strangers. This can be risky in winter, especially because of the bombilla, when flu and viruses are abundant. If the mate kit has not been properly cleaned, harmful agents such as fungi and germs are likely to proliferate. Besides, it is very difficult to feel the true flavor of a good mate if it is not in good condition: so it is best to take the time to cure it and wash it at the right time.
Now it is possible to enjoy this natural infusion full of benefits all over the world.