Tim Ferris, the author of “The 4-hour work week” calls mate “the creativity elixir” and claims it helped him write the book that made him famous. He discovered the drink when he was in Buenos Aires and kept the habit of drinking mate long after he left the country.
Mate is a South American drink. There are certain (small) differences between the way mate is enjoyed in different countries; in this post I’ll describe the way it’s prepared in Argentina.
You’ll need: A mate (some people translate it as gourd, but it is called mate, so let’s call it that), a bombilla (the metal straw you use to drink the mate, it has a filter at one end, so you don’t suck bits of the yerba through it, just the flavoured water) hot water and yerba mate.
Mate is the name of the drink and mate is the name of the gourd, just in case you got confused 😉
Yerba is a bitter-tasting plant. It comes dried, in big packages and looks a bit like loose green tea leaves (but tastes nothing like it). You can sweeten it with sugar or honey, or drink it as is, which is the traditional way.
You can also add mint leaves, lemon verbena leaves, dried orange peel, dried lemon peel or coffee (not the best idea as yerba has caffeine already) to give an added taste to the mix. All those flavours work very well together, and in particular, if you never had mate before adding a bit of sugar or honey and some mint leaves can help soften the strong flavour.
I love mate, so I have no issue with its flavour, however, I guess a bit like Guinness and Fernet, it is a peculiar taste, which needs a bit getting used to.
Having said that, mate is a great companion for work and study. Instead of pouring coffee after coffee, that will have you walking on the ceiling, you can make yourself a flask of hot water and enjoy mate for an hour or so. That’s the best way to describe it: as a companion. At home we make mate when we have to tackle some nasty chore in the house, or last time: when we had to pack all our stuff to move.
Mate is for sharing. That’s another characteristic of mate: You prepare 1 gourd for 1, 2, 3 or however many people will be having mate with you. You pour water on the mate and drink it all before pouring some more and handing the mate to someone else. You don’t sip and pass, you drink the whole mate and then pour some more and then you pass it.
Benefits of drinking Mate:
1.- Yerba has mateine (a type of caffeine) therefore mate is a stimulant and can be used as we use coffee: to wake us up. However, because of the other components in yerba, apparently it does not affect the body the same way as caffeine does: with mateine there are no highs and lows.
Having said that, do not drink mate after 6pm or you won’t be able to sleep, just as if you’ve had coffee.
2.- Yerba mate has: iron, magnesium, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2 and potassium. All naturally occurring. So unlike tea, coffee, barley drinks and a big etc. Mate actually gives you something in the nutrients department.
3.- Some sites claim it helps you loose weight. If you keep your belly filled with water you’ll be less hungry, that’s a fact; but apart from that, I don’t think it has any miraculous slimming properties.
I still don’t know whether mate drink is alkaline or acidic. Sites don’t seem to agree on this one. I believe it’s probably acidic, less than coffee, probably closer to the pH of tea. Still, green tea is allowed in the alkaline diet in small amounts due to its high content of antioxidants, so I guess mate should be allowed for the same reasons.
Now, you don’t need to buy a mate if you don’t have one. Mates can be different sizes and materials: wood, glass, metal, even plastic. I’ve discovered that La Fermiere yoghurt pots work fantastic as mates. They cost £1.39 each at WholeFoods (and the yoghurt in them is super yummy!) which is a lot cheaper than the cheapest of mates you can get on the Internet.
Here is my La Fermiere mate with a tasty treat on top:
I haven’t found an alternative for bombillas, but on Amazon they cost about £5 (don’t pay more than £7!) So you can have a mate kit for £6.39 which is not too bad.
Here is how to prepare a mate:
1.- Fill your mate with Yerba roughly mid way.
2.- Then tilt it a bit so that most of the Yerba goes to one side.
3.- Insert the bombilla in the side with less yerba.
4.- Pour some cold water close to the bombilla. This will prevent you from burning the mate leaves (which will make them taste really bitter) when you pour the hot water; and also from diluting their flavour too quickly.
Now it’s the time to add (if you are going to use) mint leaves, orange peel etc.
5.- Now you can pour your hot water (never hotter than 80 degrees, the water is not meant to be boiling) on the mate, again close to the bombilla.
How long can you keep pouring a mate before replacing the yerba? Well, until you think the flavour is gone (usually after pouring 8 mates or more).
Hope you enjoy your mate!!