I still remember as a young child going to see my great grandfather and watching him put those strange leaves and twigs into what to me looked like a small coconut with a shiny straw. He was brewing his yerba mate tea in the traditional way in a gourd with a bombilla (shiny silver straw) to sip from. His friends would come and share stories and laugh while my grandfather brewed the yerba mate and passed the gourd to each of them. For them, the drinking of the yerba mate was a social ritual that they performed daily while sharing a few laughs and a sense of camaraderie. In later years, my grandfather would visit and bring me some of that precious yerba mate tea and so began my journey to carry on his traditions.
Yerba mate in its most traditional form looks like a bunch of crushed leaves and stems. Most serious mate drinkers use this form. I started with the Amanda Yerba Mate starter kit which comes with a gourd, a bombilla, and a small bag of yerba mate. Later I found myself gravitating to the Rosamonte Especial yerba mate which is a premium Argentinean blend with a rich smoky flavor. I have a beautiful gourd lined with Argentinean leather and a Rosamonte Bombilla to sip my mate from. The few times that I drink my yerba mate the traditional way bring me back to those long ago days with my great grandfather and I can hear his voice telling me the story of his “Drink of the Gods”. Sometimes I want a different flavor to my mate so I have found that I enjoy the CBSe Yerba Mate Con Naranja or more simply put orange flavored yerba mate. The citrus flavor is nice when you are making iced tea from your mate. I have also used the Cruz de Malta Yerba Mate which is another Argentinean blend with stems. For those who prefer a stem-free mate, Canarius Yerba Mate Sin Palo is a Brazilian blend using only the leaves of the mate tree.
Realistically, my busy lifestyle makes it difficult to prepare gourds on a regular basis so I have found ways to blend the age old tradition of the mate with some modern methods of preparation. Any of the loose leaf yerba mates can be brewed in a coffee pot with a mesh filter. I also keep some of the mate available in tea bags on hand for the times when I just want a single cup. I try to keep the Rosamonte Yerba Mate teabags on hand but often they are out of stock so I have also used the Cruz de Malta Yerba Mate teabags. With the teabags, enjoying the benefits of yerba mate is a simple process that fits into today’s busy lifestyles and allows me to enjoy mate on the job as well.
Whether you enjoy the mate in the traditional gourd inspired way, or make it simply in your coffee pot or cup, you are continuing a tradition begun long ago in South America. The mate has long been revered for its health benefits, but it’s the tradition of the yerba mate that has always appealed to me. Each cup or glass I drink brings back memories of my great grandfather and his circle of friends passing the gourd and sharing stories.
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