A formal mate gourd and the loose leaf brand my friend prefers
I am happy to share the rest of this blog post with you, written by AM who is from Argentina, one of the South American countries where yerba mate is part of many people's life. Enjoy!
Mate is an infusion made with yerba mate and drunk all over southern South America (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil mainly). Yerba mate is a large bush with bright green leaves that grows in warm, humid climates. You may have seen it here in the US in the form of tea bags or as iced tea. In Argentina, the traditional way is to drink it communally out of a hollowed out and dried gourd, with a metal straw.
A less formal gourd, beautiful in its simplicity
The way it works is this: the host or the person who decides to make mate (in my parents' house, it's almost always my dad) fills the mate (the hollowed out gourd is called the mate) with yerba mate (about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up usually) and then, before pouring the hot water in the mate for the first time, you need to add a splash of cold water (a teaspoon or so), to settle the leaves and prevent them from burning. Then you fill the gourd with hot water on the verge of boiling. The host drinks the mate with the straw until there's no liquid left. This is done rapidly, usually within a minute or two. The host pours water in the mate again and sometimes drinks the second one as well. The reason for this is that the first pour (and even the second) tends to be very strong. The host pours the next mate and hands it to a guest, who drinks it rapidly (within three minutes usually) and returns it to the host. The host refills the mate and hands it to the next guest. The order is determined depending on where people are sitting. (It proceeds in order, in any direction, from the place where the host sits. Mate can move clockwise or counterclockwise. The host decides). The mate then moves around the table until it's the host's turn to drink again. The host is the only person to pour water into the mate.
The mate drinking circle continues until people don't want to drink anymore. At any time, you can say "thank you" and drop out of the mate drinking. The host continues serving until people no longer want to drink. If the infusion gets too weak, the host may decide to change the yerba mate and start anew with fresh yerba mate.
Don't move the straw! That stirs up the leaf and you want it to stick in place
Yerba mate is green and is a mix of dry, often powdered, leaves and twigs. The flavor is intense, herbal and somewhat bitter. For most people, it's an acquired taste. Like tea and coffee, it has a stimulant effect.
Have you enjoyed mate? How about in the traditional way?