Yerba Mate – a South American Herbal Drink

by Sala @ Veggie Belly on April 7, 2009

yerba mate and gourd

We discovered this hot, green tea-like South American drink when we visited Argentina. Yerba mate was everywhere Argentina. In the evenings, families flocked to Buenos Aires’ parks with mate gourd and a flask of hot water in hand. Shopkeepers stood by their stalls sipping yerba mate from its bombilla or straw. People socialized over yerba mate. At a house party, when I asked for tea, I was given yerba mate…by a very handsome Argentinean.

This being Argentina’s national drink, I had to bring back some yerba mate and a couple of mate gourds from my trip. I didnt realize till now that I hadnt shared pictures of my yerba mate and mate gourds with you. So here is my yerba mate post!

Spot the mate gourd picture that has a reflection of me!

Yerba Mate in Argentina
A mate maker carving gourds & an olive vendor enjoying yerba mate in Mendoza, Argentina.

‘Yerba’ means herb and ‘mate’ is the gourd used to drink yerba mate. So the drink literally means ‘herb in a cup’. True to its name, Yerba mate tastes like strong, earthy, somewhat bitter green tea.

Research shows that yerba mate has cancer fighting, antidepressant and energy boosting properties. If you’ve ever used Biofreeze – a topical muscle and joint pain reliever – you have experienced yet another medicinal property of yerba mate. Biofreeze, by the way, works like magic for aches and sprains; I HIGHLY recommend it. Biofreeze is so incredibly effective only because it is made from yerba mate! It contains Ilex, which is the botanical name for yerba mate!

How to make and drink yerba mate

The dried leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant are brewed like a tea in hot water and enjoyed in special mate gourds and straws (bombillas). The mate gourd is a hollowed out, dried vegetable. The outside of the gourd ranges from simple, plain black to beautiful carvings or ornamental enamel work. Mate drinkers use special straws because the drink is not strained before drinking. Instead, the straws come fitted with little strainers.

Yerba Mate

Here are step by step instructions on how to brew yerba mate from guayaki.com

1. Pack the dry loose yerba mate into the gourd just over half-full.

2. Place your hand on the top of the half-filled gourd and turn it upside-down. Shake the more powdery leaves to the top of the gourd with several flicks of the wrist.

3. Turn the gourd onto its side and give it several light shakes back and forth. This action will bring the larger stems to the surface.

4. Insert the bombilla (straw-like filter) into the gourd. Gently roll the gourd over until the mate levels off and some of the larger stems cover the bottom of the bombilla helping to filter.

5. Add fresh cool water and allow it to sit for a few minutes in order to moisten the mate. The cool water protects the nutrients and flavor of the mate.

6. After the mate absorbs the water and swells, add hot water.

7. The mate gourd can be refilled 15-20 times

Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate
You could ofcourse, skip the mate gourd and strain and drink your mate from a cup. If you do decide to go the traditional route and use a mate gourd, you might want to cure the gourd first.

How to cure a mate gourd

If you are using a mate gourd, you will have to cure it first. Since the mate cup is a hollowed out, dried vegetable, the mate will taste bitter if drunk from an uncured gourd. But curing a gourd is easy. Fill it half way with lose yerba mate. Then fill the gourd with hot water. Let it stand for a whole day. Pour out the yerba mate and water and air dry the gourd. You are now ready to enjoy yerba mate in your gourd.

If you don’t mind bitter yerba mate, you don’t have to cure the gourd.

Where to buy Yerba mate

You can buy yerba mate in grocery stores like Wholefoods. It comes in 3 forms – 1.loose leaf (what I have), 2.tea bags or 3.already brewed, flavored, bottled beverage.

You can also buy all forms of mate including some innovative drinks like mate latte, gourds, straws and accessories on http://www.guayaki.com/

Yerba Mate

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Comments

comments

{ 1 trackback }

Opening Up: Early Morning Thoughts on a Bus in Argentina « Greenheart Travel
August 13, 2010 at 8:19 am

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Soma April 8, 2009 at 1:37 am

Learnt something new from the post. Thank you so much for sharing! I am in love with those mate gourd. I love collecting things traditional to different places… So pretty! Would love to own one of those.. may be a local market might sell one.. will go & look.

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2 Nags April 8, 2009 at 1:39 am

Your pics are so amazing :)

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3 Pavani April 8, 2009 at 1:43 am

Very interesting. Beautiful pics.

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4 Cham April 8, 2009 at 4:08 am

Quiet an interesting drink! Love the gourd mate something unsual at least for me!

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5 NIKKI April 8, 2009 at 6:47 am

I just wanted to let you know that I am in love with your blog. It is stunning and incredibly well-done. I will surely be checking it regularly. I have a question, however….I see that you have lables on your posts but I don’t see the list anywhere. I was just wondering if there was another way to navigate through the recipes besides the archives. Maybe I am missing something. I too am a food blogger but am really new to this whole scene and still learning. Feel free to take a look at my blog if you get a chance. Keep up the amazing work!

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6 Ramya Vijaykumar April 8, 2009 at 11:30 am

definitely a useful post and you have made things look very simple… I instantly fell in love the pots and spoons :)

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7 Gina April 8, 2009 at 11:32 am

I found you! (your reflection, that is)

I keep hearing about this stuff, great post :)

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8 Asha April 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I am digging the beautiful bowls and the stirrer too. Herb drink sounds good, must visit south of the border soon! :)

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9 Alejandro April 8, 2009 at 1:14 pm

I really enjoyed your article and your pics!
I wanted to suggest another website where I bought some nice gourds and bombillas :
http://www.mymateworld.com

There´s a lot of helpful information as well.

Greetings!

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10 Vicky Xavier. April 8, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Much useful a post. Will look for the yerba mate leaves online:)

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11 lisaiscooking April 8, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I’ve had bottled yerba mate and love it. Your mate gourde is so pretty!

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12 Maryann April 8, 2009 at 2:44 pm

That first picture is gorgeous. You should enter it in DMBLGIT. Really.

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13 burpandslurp April 8, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I’ve been seeing this in WF, and have always wondered what they were. thanks for this informational post!
I would love to try it, but the price seems to be quite high!

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14 Superchef April 8, 2009 at 7:31 pm

very interesting post and great pics!

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15 Yasmeen April 8, 2009 at 8:59 pm

I see you! truly a unique herb and the gourds are such pretty containers:)

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16 Sylvia April 9, 2009 at 12:01 am

You really know about how to drink mate. Wonderful post and amazing pics

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17 Joie de vivre April 9, 2009 at 12:48 am

Veggie Belly, how does it taste? I’ve seen Yerba Mate and the straws in my local tea shop, but the straws are a little pricey when I don’t know if I’d like it or not. How is it? I know if a whole country drinks it regularly it is probably worth trying, but I wasn’t sure if it was an acquired taste or not. Does it taste like green tea? What is it like after being reinfused, and reinfused all day? Isn’t that how they do it?

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18 Laavanya April 9, 2009 at 1:22 am

The pot looks so good and what an interesting drink that is. Always learn something new here.

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19 Hayley April 9, 2009 at 2:29 am

Wonderful resource, as I LOVE tea!

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20 msjvd April 9, 2009 at 5:09 am

Did you miss reading the research that showed that Yerba is being linked to some forms of cancer?

http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/lifestyle/chi-tc-health-nutri-lab-0325-032apr05,0,6965183.story

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21 A_and_N April 9, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Great drink…but the vessel in which you’ve served it looks out of this world!

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22 meeso April 9, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I really love the little cups, they are beautiful!

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23 DEESHA April 9, 2009 at 2:13 pm

nice pics & a nice drink too

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24 Jessica@Foodmayhem April 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I can’t get over how great your photos are! You could make me want anything.

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25 Cardamom April 9, 2009 at 9:17 pm

gorgeous shots….I am really not looking at the tea, just the pictures…!!!

trupti

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26 Donna-FFW April 11, 2009 at 2:42 am

Your photos have me captivated, I love the drinking cups.. they are just stunning..

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27 sheela April 11, 2009 at 9:52 am

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Kaylee

http://www.craigslistpostingtools.info

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28 Cynthia April 15, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Thank you for this introduction. I’ll definitely try and get some.

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29 Rebecca April 15, 2009 at 10:21 pm

This is a great post!! Found your photo on Tastespotting, I am amazed you found someone in Mendoza that still carves mates by hand!

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30 Coffee and Vanilla April 16, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Wow, I have one like this too! Thank you for reminding me to drink my mate :) I also blogged about it a while ago, but then completely forgot about its existance….

Have a nice day and don’t forget about Mayan Magic Giveaway on my site!

Margot

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31 5 Star Foodie April 18, 2009 at 3:09 am

This is definitely new to me – I would love to try it!

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32 Sandie April 22, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Thanks for the info on this herbal drink. I’ve heard of Yerba Mate, but didn’t know much about it until now. It looks and sounds intriguing (and I love your cups)!

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33 Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener May 14, 2009 at 1:24 am

I did not know that Yerba Mate was a type of holly (Ilex is the botanical name for the genus holly). I look it up – and sure enough you are right :) !!! Learned something new and really enjoyed the beautiful pictures.

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34 Selva March 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Nice post :-) I’m argentine, I commented that like many compatriots I prefer to drink the mate in a cup, bought it in the form of tea-bags at any store or supermarket. Prepared in a cup we call it “mate cocido”. In summer you can also drink mate cold, its prepared with cold/frost water and in this case we call it “tereré”. At schools is very common to give children “mate cocido con leche”, made ​​with hot milk instead of water, it is prepared in large pots and served in cups (but I believe that this is not a healthy habit for children)
Anyway, of course in my house there are several mates with bombillas :-)

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