Although yerba mate is naturally bitter, many prefer to sweeten their mate tea by adding sugar, honey or any other sweetener during the brewing process. To this end, the mate gourd should be properly cured.
Among the many ways of drinking yerba mate (traditional Argentinian mate, cold-brewed in the form of tereré, flavored yerba mate, in tea bags, etc.); many people choose to sweeten their yerba mate to soften its distinctive bitterness. Sweet mate is usually prepared with a touch of white sugar, although you can also use sweeteners, honey, stevia, or brown sugar. Everyone makes “mate dulce” according to their tastes and preferences; you can even try different options until you find the one you like best!
Step by step: how to prepare “mate dulce”
- Heat up water until just before boiling point (ideally 75°C or 167°F), and keep it in a thermos to preserve its temperature.
- As in the traditional recipe, fill 3/4 of the gourd with yerba mate.
- Cover the gourd with your hand and shake it gently to mix the components. Tilt the gourd to the side and introduce the bombilla.
- There are two ways to sweeten your mate: by adding sugar or another sweetener to the water, so that the taste is consistent in each round; or, as some people prefer, by adding a teaspoonful of sugar, honey or sweetener directly to the yerba.
- Pour hot water slowly on the side where the bombilla is, until a thin layer of foam is formed on the surface. Allow yerba mate to absorb this first amount of water, and then pour water again to the top. Ready to be enjoyed!
Tips for sweetening yerba mate
- Something to keep in mind is that when you sweeten your mate, the original flavor and natural characteristics of yerba mate cannot be fully appreciated.
- To add more flavor to a sweet mate tea (or even to a traditional mate), you can add fruit peels or herbs.
- For a sweet yerba mate tea, it is not necessary to use a wide mate cup. It is actually customary to use a type of pumpkin gourd called “poro” or “pera” (because it’s pear-shaped).
- According to yerba mate sommelier Karla Johan Lorenzo, it is not convenient to drink sweet mate in a mate gourd that has been cured to drink bitter yerba mate. The sweet mate gourd should be cured using sugar, burning coal, used yerba and boiling water.
- As a general rule, you should never sweeten a mate gourd that is used to drink bitter yerba mate, since the sweetness persists for a long time. There is a healthy controversy between those who drink bitter mate and those who drink it sweet.