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Obtain a gourd and bombilla. Mate is traditionally steeped and served in a hollow calabash gourd (itself called a mate) and drunk through a metal straw called bombilla (pronounced bome-bee-ja). There are also mate cups made from metal, ceramic or wood. You can use a regular tea cup, as well, but you'll definitely need the bombilla.

A gourd being used for the first time should be cured, or else the first few drinks from it might be a little on the bitter side. Curing removes the soft inner tissues of the gourd and "seasons" the inside with the flavor of mate. Fill the gourd with boiling water almost to the metal rim (or to the top if there is no metal rim) and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then softly scrape the membrane out of the gourd with a metal spoon under running water (but do not remove the stem in the center, put the cleaned-out gourd in the sunlight for a day or two until it is completely dry.


  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. This helps to ensure that you don't suck in the powdery leaves through the bombilla later.

  3. Turn the gourd almost completely on its side and give it several light shakes back and forth. This action will bring the larger stems to the surface, which will help filter the powdery leaves later. Slowly and carefully tilt the gourd right side up so that the yerba mate remains in a lopsided pile on one side.

  4. Insert the bombilla into the gourd. Whether you add cool water before or after inserting the bombilla is a matter of personal or cultural preference. Either way, the cool water will help preserve the integrity of the mate.

    Put the bombilla in the empty space next to the pile, being careful not to disturb the arrangement. Bring the end of the bombilla to the bottom and against the wall, as far from the powdery tip of the pile as possible. Then add cold water into the empty space until just before it reaches the top of the pile and wait for it to be absorbed. Try to keep the powdery tip of the pile dry.

    Alternatively, pour cool water into the empty space until just before it reaches the top of the pile, and wait for it to be absorbed. Pack or gently tamp the slope of the pile; this packing helps the mate remain in this shape later on. Bring the end of thebombilla to the bottom and against the wall, as far from the powdery tip of the pile as possible.

  5. Pour hot water into the empty space as you did with the cool water. It is important that you use hot water (70–80 °C, 160–180 °F) not boiling water, as boiling water will make the mate bitter.

  6. Drink from the bombilla. Newcomers to mate tend to jiggle the bombilla and stir the herb. Resist this temptation, or you'll end up clogging the bombilla and allowing herb into the straw. Drink the entire mate when it's handed to you, don't just take a small sip and pass it back. You should hear a sound similar to when drinking soda with straw.

  7. Clean the gourd (or whatever container you used) after you're done and leave it out to dry. Containers made from organic materials may rot and your mate will taste accordingly.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 January 2012 22:15

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