Every fan of yerba mate – today recognised as one of the 50 tastiest beverages around the globe – should always have a nice Yerba Mate Kit (called “kit matero” in Spanish). This conveniently includes everything you need to delight in yerba mate, whether it is with friends, at home alone, at the park or at work.
Firstly, a Yerba Mate Kit should include a nice mate gourd. For instance, a hollow pumpkin that has a small base and a wide mouth, which guarantees a great mate. Even though mate containers come in several materials, gourd made of glass keep the original taste – plus, it is really easy to clean. And if they are coated with a thermal material, too, like leather, they keep the ideal temperature longer.
Another key element is the “bombilla”, a narrow metallic tube needed to sip the yerba mate infusion.
Another element is a thermos made of glass or stainless steel, with an ideal capacity of 1 litre. The thermos will keep the water temperature.
Moreover, the ideal Kit should include a thermal bag or an appropriate bag to place the thermos; if possible waterproof for higher protection outdoors, and laminated for adequate thermal insulation.
Then, obviously, good-quality yerba. With or with no stem, flavoured, in tea-bags, delicate, low dust: there is a kind of yerba for every palate.
At home, it is also good to have a kettle which lets us heat the water to the right temperature, about 75 °C.
Though the arrangement of the kit does not change much from region to region, there are a few differences in relation to the local culture.
In Argentina, for instance – the biggest producer of yerba mate worldwide – people view yerba as a social habit and drink it principally in group rounds. Here, everybody shares the same mate container and a leader named “cebador” is responsible for preparing the drink for everybody.
For Uruguayans, conversely, mate is more of a personal custom which they enjoy at any given time and place, so every person has their own kit and takes it along wherever they go. In Uruguay, mate gourds are bigger and yerba mate with no stems is mostly chosen.
It is key to use a proper mate gourd, which has been prepared beforehand, so the walls are sealed and any flavour stemming from the material is removed. It is advisable to use a bombilla made of stainless steel, silver or alpaca. The right cleaning and preservation of the Yerba Mate Kit is essential: after having mate, all the yerba should be taken out as soon as possible. Right then it should be rinsed, dried and left to dry face-up, to avoid the rise of fungi or germs.
And needless to say, it is essential to always use good-quality yerba with a genuine flavour, texture and scent.
Having mate is an ancient tradition, profoundly rooted in cultures like the Uruguayan and Argentinian, the same as football or ‘asados’ (or perhaps more). Yerba mate is more than just a beverage. It is seen as an element of social interaction, a ritual which is increasingly expanding day by day beyond South America.