The process of preparing Mate (“cebar” in Spanish) includes a set of techniques and tricks to guarantee the optimal results. On this occasion, Valeria Trapaga – sommelier specialising in Yerba Mate – explains everything we should know about preparing Mate like a pro.
The first step is having top-quality Yerba for our Mate infusion, since this has a great impact on its flavour, texture and smell. To identify good Yerba, we should use all our senses. The Yerba will ideally have a yellowish green colour, and there should be harmony among its elements – dust, leaves, stem. When holding it, Yerba needs to have a dry texture and produce a mild cracking sound. Its aroma must be fresh and a bit roasted, while the flavour should have a nice bitter hint.
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, stems. 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 pot is correctly cured, it absorbs all the properties of the Yerba and keep its flavour. Therefore, prior to preparing the infusion, it is key to guarantee that our container is right (it should have a narrow base and a wide mouth), and that it is rightly cured.
How shall we cure the container? You fill it with Yerba, add hot water and let it sit overnight. In the morning, you scrape its surface thoroughly to take out the woody stem. If needed, make the process again till it is absolutely clean, then let it dry under the sun.
All set! The result will be a foaming, intense drink in which the good flavour of the Yerba will remain much longer.