Yerba Mate Taragüi - How to prepare a classic Argentine mate
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How to prepare a classic Argentine mate

In its traditional version, Yerba is hot and bitter. This is the best form to delight in its unique flavour and tap into its wonderful properties.

Even though Yerba Mate is truly versatile, thanks to the varied ways in which it can be drunk and its several health benefits, its classical version is still hot and bitter. This is Argentina’s favourite way of having Mate, and there is a reason why this country is the world’s leading producer of Yerba Mate, as well as one the main consumers: 8 out of 10 Argentinians drink Mate.

This drink is Yerba Mate leaves-based, and these leaves have always gone through a drying and grinding process which gives them their distinctive bitter taste. In Argentina and other Mate-drinking countries, water used for the drink is normally hot – though not boiling – and the original bitter taste of Yerba Mate is conserved. Nevertheless, there are several options to customise it according to your taste.

What do we need to prepare a traditional mate tea?

  1. A Mate container, a bombilla (special metal straw), and, if possible, a thermos to keep the water temperature for longer.
  2. Top-quality Yerba Mate.
  3. Preferably, a kettle to warm the water, as it allows good control of the temperature.

Step by step: how to prepare a traditional bitter mate

  1. Heat water to 70 or 80ºC – do not let it boil
  2. Fill ¾ of the Mate container with Yerba.
  3. Cover the container with your hand, turn it upside down, shake it lightly to mix the elements.
  4. Lift the container slowly up to an inclination of around 45 degrees and pour some warm water on the part with less Yerba, so that the bottom gets moistened. 
  5. With the same inclination, introduce the “bombilla” against the inner wall, and try to keep it that way, without moving it.
  6. Add hot water slowly on the part of the bombilla, till there is foam at the top.
  7. As the Yerba absorbs the water, pour a bit more till it reaches the surface, which means you Mate is ready!

The DOs and DON’Ts of Mate

🗸Hot water is ideal as it intensifies all the virtues of Yerba Mate. This is due to the fact that it increases the solubility of its elements. It is recommendable to keep the water in a thermos so it keeps its perfect temperature.

✗ The water must not boil, since the solubility goes up so much that every element is extracted in very few rounds and the Yerba could quickly lose its taste.

🗸 Pour the water gradually, always around the same place.

✗ Pay attention not to soak all the content – this way, you will be albeit  to enjoy the long lasting flavour of Yerba Mate.

🗸 Even though the traditional Mate infusion is bitter, some would rather sweeten it with a bit of sugar at the top. Besides, you can add more flavour by putting a few dried orange, lemon or grapefruit peels, or leaves like mint, melissa and lemon verbena.

✗ The bombilla must ideally stay in the same place, so that the flavour of Mate remains intact.

🗸 At the beginning, it is advisable to take continuous sips. 

✗ Do not take too long to drink your Mate, as it will cool down. Apart from this, you should always take all the water in the container before pouring more.

The “rules of etiquette” in a traditional mate round

  • Even though in times COVID-19 it is advisable to drink Mate individually, the custom goes that Yerba Mate is shared by two or more people in rounds, using the same Mate pot and bombilla. Actually, drinking Mate in Argentina is seen as a reason for social gatherings, and thus it is habitually enjoyed in groups – a tradition that dates from the time of gauchos having Mate around a bonfire. 
  • The first sip is always taken by the “cebador” or “cebadora” – the individual in charge of preparing the Mate. They are also responsible for serving the Mate every time, and passing it on to every one of the members of the group.
  • When the foam and taste begin to fade away, the bombilla should be pulled out and the Yerba replaced.
  • Just say “Thank you” to the “cebador” or “cebadora” when you are done drinking.

In spite of the fact that this is the most habitual way of drinking Yerba Mate, there is always the possibility to add a personal touch! Apart from traditional Yerba with or with no stems, there is also fruit flavoured Yerba and even Yerba with extra Mateine to begin your day full of energy. Moreover, apart from its traditional packaging, Yerba Mate also comes in tea bags that are prepared just like tea. On hot summer days, you can also delight in a tasty “tereré” (cold Mate). Therefore, there is no excuse not to make use of all the great properties of Yerba Mate!

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