Yerba mate is a South American beverage prepared by steeping the crushed or ground stems and leaves of the yerba mate plant. The beverage contains caffeine as well as a number of other nutrients such as amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols that offer loads of health benefits. With its considerable caffeine content, yerba mate gives you a wonderful kick that will keep you alert and awake even after a long, tiring day.
Preparing Yerba Mate Beverage
Traditionally, the yerba mate leaves are first dried, chopped and ground into a powdery mix called yerba, which is put into a calabash gourd called maté. Cold water is then poured into the maté to moisten the leaves. The cold water also helps protect the flavor and the nutrients. Then enough hot water is poured into the maté till all the leaves are covered and it is kept to brew.
Today, the gourd has been replaced by French presses and coffee makers and for those who are looking for a quick pick-me-up without the bother of brewing, yerba mate leaves are also available in readymade tea bags that have to be simply steeped in hot water to brew.
Serving & Drinking Yerba Mate
Yerba mate beverage is drunk directly from the gourd using a bombilla or a straw. The bombilla acts as a straw and a sieve. The end that is submerged into the liquid is flared and has a strainer that stops the leaves from going through the straw. So when the beverage is brewed there is no need to remove the leaves. Instead, you just directly insert the bombilla into the gourd and you are ready to start sipping.
Yerba mate is meant to be shared with family and friends as a sign of friendship and bonding. The host or the person who prepares the tea takes the first sip and passes it to the next person. The gourd is passed around and everybody sips from it and it goes back to the host where more hot water is added into it. It is then passed around again for second and third rounds. This way everybody gets to enjoy the infusion until there is no flavor left in it.
There are several variations to this tradition today. Yerba mate beverage can also be brewed as a cold beverage with a dash of mint, lemon and sugar for a cool refreshing drink on a hot day.