Mate is a very special South American beverage and its preparation is very different from other infusions such as tea or coffee. It is necessary to know the process really well in order to prepare a good mate.
To prepare mate, you first need the “yerba”. You can buy these dried and ground leaves in several forms, such as herbs or fruit flavored; although the most commonly used is the so called “yerba mate con palo”, with more or less 65% of dried leaves and 35% of chips and fibers from the yerba mate. The mate (container) is also needed along with the “bombilla” (straw); and hot water just before boiling. If you are going to drink mate with a group of people, then you should have a thermos to maintain the water temperature for longer.
The first step is to heat water. The Route of Yerba Mate Association recommends a water temperature of 70 to 80 °. Meanwhile, three quarters of the mate container should be filled with your yerba mate of choice. Now comes the most special part of the preparation: you have to turn the container upside down, putting your hand in a way that prevents the yerba from leaking out, but at the same time shaking it a little so that the dust doesn’t accumulate at the bottom.
Then the mate container should go slowly into its original position, making sure that the yerba leans to one side, leaving a hole on the other side. It is through this hole that we will pour some of the warm water and let it there for a while. By doing this, the yerba mate releases all its components.
We introduce the straw through this same hole, pressing it firmly so that it will not move later. Now you can start drinking mate, pouring a moderate amount of hot water on the same side where the straw is, and repeating this every time someone is going to drink.
Although this is the most common way to drink mate, the taste can be too bitter for some palates, especially those who are not used to it. This is why some people prefer to add a little sugar, honey or sweetener, and they even put hot milk instead of water. In summer, you could add cold water instead of hot water and this is called “tereré”. Some will add coffee to experience an energy boost. Regardless of the way you drink mate, it still has its excellent nutritional value and its important cultural symbolism.