Guide to the Perfect Mate, in Five Simple Steps

A step-by-step guide to Argentina’s most traditional infusion


“Shall we go for a mate?” is one of the most commonly heard phrases in any gathering of friends in Argentina. This drink, which was declared Argentina’s national infusion in 2013, is a symbol of friendship and sharing. Conversations flow, anecdotes are shared, and laughter rings out while mate is served.

Fancy preparing one yourself? Here are some simple steps to making the perfect mate, quickly and easily.

Preparación de mate (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

The essentials

First, the basics. To make a mate, you’ll need a mate (which is also the name of the gourd from which maté is drunk), a metal straw known as a bombilla, the herb known as yerba mate (the undisputed and essential star of the show), a kettle for heating the water, and a flask to keep it warm.

Yerba mate

Yerba mate comes from a tree that is native to the Alto Paraná Atlantic forests. Today, several different brands and varieties are available, and consumers can choose their favorite kind. They are available in stronger and milder versions, with or without medicinal herbs, and sweetened or unsweetened.

The kettle

Mate is drunk with water that is almost at boiling point, which can be heated in a kettle (either the traditional sort or an electric kettle will do).

Preparación de mate (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

1. Heating the water

It is extremely important that the water temperature does not exceed 167°F to 176°F (75°C to 80°C). If the water is any hotter, when it is poured over the herbs, they will lose their natural goodness and may “burn.”

Preparacion de mate (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

2. Placing the herbs in the gourd and shaking it.

Add the herbs to the gourd, making sure that the gourd is no more than three-quarters full. Then cover the opening of the gourd with your hand, and shake it horizontally for a few seconds. This will balance the flavor.

Preparacion de mate (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

3. Inserting the straw

It's best if the herbs lie at an angle in the gourd, along one side of it, rather than flat on the bottom. Add a small amount of tepid water to moisten the herbs slightly, and then insert the metal straw, at the opposite angle to the way the herbs are lying.

Preparación de mate (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

4. Serving the maté

In Spanish, serving the maté is known as cebar. It’s important to pour the water very close to the metal straw (but not on it, or the metal will heat up and could burn your lips!) When serving the maté, not all the herbs should be soaked, otherwise it will quickly lose its flavor.

Preparación de mate (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

Mónica toma mate (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

5. The first cebador

The person who makes the infusion (known in Spanish as the cebador) is also the first to try it. Why? Because the first serving tends to be the most bitter. The cebador also tries it to test the temperature and flavor. After this, it’s time to give your guest their first delicious mate.

Mónica y Leticia toman mate (2021-01-27/2021-01-29) by Fotógrafo 1: Julio Noguera.Gustar

6. Share it around!

A round of mate can be shared between any number of people (generally between two and four). Tradition dictates that the cebador has to pass on the mate with his or her right hand, with the metal straw pointing towards the person to whom they are passing it. Respecting the order is of the utmost importance, to ensure everyone has a turn!

Credits: Story

Editor: Diego Marinelli/Text: Ayelén Iñigo 

Credits: All media
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