The steps for making mate (“cebar”, in Spanish) entails a number of techniques and tricks to guarantee the best results. Here, Valeria Trapaga (sommelier who specialises in yerba mate) explains everything there is to know about making mate as an expert.
Firstly, we should use a high-quality yerba for the mate tea, since this will have a great impact on its flavour, texture and aroma. To recognise a good yerba, we need to use our five senses. The yerba should be yellowish green, and there should be a balance among the components: dust, leaves, chips, fiber. When you hold it, the yerba ought to have a dry quality and make a light cracking sound. Its scent should be fresh and a bit roasted; meanwhile, the flavour should have a slightly bitter touch.
When the mate (container) is appropriately cured, it can absorb all the attributes of the yerba and keep its flavours. Therefore, before we begin preparing the drink, it is key to ensure the container we use is apt (it needs to have a narrow base, a wide mouth) and that it has been cured correctly.
How should we cure the container? We first fill it with yerba, then add hot water and let it sit for the night. In the morning, we scrape its surface well to eliminate the woody stems. If needed, repeat the process until it is totally clean. Then, let it dry in the sun.
All set! The outcome will be a foaming, intense drink where the nice flavour of the yerba remains much longer.