1 natural mate gourd
1 17 oz (500 ml) insulated thermos
1 bombilla (we recommend curved stainless steel with a spring filter)
loose yerba mate (we recommend the Argentinian brand Cruz de Malta)
If starting with a new, unused gourd you have to prep it for use. First moisten the inside of the gourd with a bit of water. Then use a spoon or the bombilla to gently scrape out any loose bits from inside of the gourd. Then fill 1/2 full with yerba mate. Fill with hot water. Allow to sit, filled, for 12 hours. Dump the water and tea out and allow to air dry overnight (or if you are in a humid climate, a full day) until it is completely dry. Repeat this process twice.
When your gourd is ready fill it 1/3 full of yerba mate.
Cover the opening with the palm of your hand.
Tap the bottom of the gourd with your other hand.
This loosens any tea "dust" stuck to the bottom of the gourd which might clog your bombilla. Flip the gourd right side up and insert the bombilla. (In the picture below you can see some of the tea dust that was shook loose on Matt's hands)
Wet leaves with about a tablespoon of cool water. This is said to help keep the mate from "bruising" and my husband says when he does this step, the mate does seem to taste better*. Fill with hot water.
Pour the remaining water in your thermos. Once the gourd is empty of water fill with hot water from the thermos and either enjoy it yourself or pass to a friend. Repeat until all of the hot water is gone.
When finished, dump out the damp mate. Rinse the gourd and allow to air dry upside down over a rack. This will prevent your gourd from becoming moldy. There is no need to prep your gourd again.
*His hypothesis? It prevents the first gourdful from being overly bitter.
My thoughts:I was excited that Bravo's “Around the World in 80 Plates" will be in Argentina this week (July 11th, 10/9c) because it would be the perfect excuse to share how to enjoy the national drink of Argentina, mate. My husband, Matt, has been drinking mate from the traditional gourd using a bombilla (straw) since before I met him. He happily shared with me his technique of readying your gourd before the first use and the proper way to enjoy mate. When he first starting drinking mate after reading about it in a novel, he had a difficult time finding English language instructions on how to prep your gourd and how to drink mate. He eventually figured it out and now has a work gourd and an at home gourd! It is a bit of effort but it is worth it. There is no wonder yerba mate is so wildly popular in Argentina that at certain times of the day the work halts for a mate break!
A note about sourcing: There are several places online that sell gourds and bombillas. We've had the best luck at Gaucho Gourmet. We are able to buy the tea at our local Italian (!) grocery but that too is available online.