In this article, I am going to explain how to brew yerba mate tea. As you will find out, there are many ways to do it. Whether you want to do it the traditional way or use a french press or ready prepared tea bags, you will find the instructions here.
Yerba mate tea is surely a healthy, refreshing, and tasty drink that has a relatively high level of caffeine. It is brewed using leaves harvested from the yerba mate plant.
The available products vary in their composition: some contain mostly leaves, and others can also include a lot of stems, twigs, and finer powdered material. There are blends that also include other herbs and flavors such as mint or citrus.
If you want to read more about the history and cultivation of yerba mate, read my article: What is Yerba Mate Tea.
The Traditional Way – Gourd, Bombilla and a Sharing Circle
In the traditional way of brewing and enjoying yerba mate tea you share the gourd (bowl) with a circle of friends and family. Next, I will explain how to do this.
In order to follow these instructions, you will need some dried yerba mate leaves, a bombilla (a metal straw), and a gourd. Traditionally the one who prepares the tea is called the “cebador” and he/she will pour the water to the gourd and pass it to each person in their turn.
You can, of course, do this by yourself. If you don’t know anyone who can teach you, it might even be a good idea to practice it a few times on your own. Then you can invite your friends to join you, and act as the cebador.
Here is how to prepare and drink yerba mate tea the traditional way:
Step 1: Heat some water to a temperature between 65 to 80 Celsius (or 150 to 175 Fahrenheit). You don’t have to be very accurate with the temperature, just don’t heat the water too hot so it starts boiling (or if you do, let it cool down a little). You can pour the water in a thermos to maintain its temperature.
Fill about half of the gourd with yerba mate.
Step 2: Then cover the gourd with your palm and invert it about 180° (to a horizontal position) and tap on the bottom. This will bring the fine particle to the top and leave the larger ones in the bottom to act as a natural filter. Then revert the gourd back gently. There should now be a heap of mate on the other side of the gourd and a small “pit” on the other side.
Next, pour a bit of cold water on the heap of yerba mate to moisten it. The cold water will help in preserving the integrity of the mate.
Step 3: Then put the filter end of the bombilla in the pit and pour hot water in the gourd to fill it about half-way. The top of the heap should still remain dry.
Step 4: Sip the yerba mate tea through the straw and drink until there is no more tea in the gourd. Continue by pouring hot water again to the gourd and then passing the gourd to the next one in the circle. After the one drinking the mate has finished the in the gourd, he/she will then pass the gourd back to you so water can be added again.
Step 5: This continues until everyone in the circle will get their turn to drink. Then a new round can be started. If the yerba mate starts tasting bland, its time to empty the gourd and then go back to step 2 (fill the gourd with new yerba mate).
Mastering the task of cebador can take some time. Don’t be afraid of making some mistakes, instead have fun learning. Just try to remember that you should avoid touching the bombilla during the process. Stirring can clog the bombilla and it can also cause the mate to get brewed too fast.
Below is a video about how to brew yerba mate tea the traditional way:
Brewing Yerba Mate with French Press
Using a french press to brew yerba mate tea is a very convenient way to make it. This not a commonly used method in South America, where mate tea originates from. Real yerba mate enthusiasts (materos) probably frown upon using a french press for preparing it.
However, you might consider yerba mate as an interesting herbal tea, but don’t have a bombilla and a gourd. If you still want to try drinking, this a very convenient way of getting started.
Here is how to prepare yerba mate tea with a french press:
- Put some yerba mate in a french press.
- Use some cold water to moisten the mate and let it sit for a few minutes until it’s moist throughout.
- Add hot water (65 to 80 C or 150 to 175 F) and let it steep for a few minutes.
- Then press the plunger down to get some clear green-colored tea.
- After drinking all of the tea in the french press you can add some more hot water to make more tea. You can repeat this for a few times before the drink starts getting bland, and you can discard the used mate.
With a french press, you can easily adjust the strength of the tea by choosing how much yerba mate leaf you use and how long you let it steep. You can experiment with different amounts of yerba mate and brewing times between 1 to 3 minutes and see which method gives the best tea for your liking.
One great option is to buy an electric tea kettle with an infuser and use it to brew your mate tea.
Tereré – Refreshing Ice-cold Mate
Tereré is a traditional ice-cold yerba mate tea. It is very popular in the tropical parts of South America because it is incredibly refreshing during a hot day.
The most notable difference between tereré and hot yerba mate tea is that tereré is prepared using cold water, which is sometimes mixed with fruit juice. In addition, other ingredients, such as herbs, sugar, and lime or lemon, can be added to give it some extra flavor.
Here are the steps to make tereré:
- Fill a pitcher or a bowl with cold water and ice.
- Squeeze some fresh lime (or lemon) juice and add honey or sugar (or other sweeteners).
- Put some yerba mate leaves into your gourd or glass and insert a bombilla to the bottom.
- Pour the cold water in the gourd/glass and let it steep for a moment.
- Sip the tea through your bombilla.
- Pour some more water in the gourd. You can also share it with others the same way as with hot yerba mate.
If you want to make things a bit easier, you can try a blend of where yerba mate is already mixed with other ingredients. For example, Pajarito Mint & Lemon Yerba Mate is a blend that is excellent for making tereré. I have also composed a more detailed guide for making tereré, which includes pictures.
Another way of making cold refreshing yerba mate tea is to first brew hot mate with a french press (or with some other method) and then pour it into a pitcher. Next, you can add some lime or lemon juice, mint, honey, or whatever you prefer, and then let the mate tea cool down to room temperature. Then you can just add some ice cubes or put the yerba mate in a refrigerator until it’s cold.
You can find more interesting yerba mate recipes in this article.
The Easy Way – Using a Tea Bag
Using a yerba mate tea bag is probably the easiest and fastest way to make yerba mate tea. Just put the tea bag in a cup, add hot water, and let it brew for a couple of minutes. When using a tea bag the mate is usually quite mild depending on the amount of yerba mate in the bag and the amount of water and brewing time.
Read more about yerba mate tea bags in this article: Yerba Mate Tea Bags – Easy and Convenient
The Modern Way – Yerba Mate K-Cups
Yerba Mate K-Cups are another easy and fast way to brew a cup of tasty yerba mate tea. K-Cups are manufactured by taking loose leaf yerba mate and packing it into disposable K-Cups. You need a Keurig K-Cup brewer (or other K-Cup brewer) for brewing.
Yerba Mate Tea – Just the Way You Like It
There are many ways to brew and enjoy yerba mate tea. After waking up to a cold winter day you would probably want a hot cup of mate tea before going to work. You could try the traditional way of brewing and enjoying yerba mate tea when spending time with friends and relatives.
However, in the middle of a hot summer day, you could choose to drink some ice-cold yerba mate tea with a dash of lime juice and some mint and honey. The choice is yours!
You can try different yerba mate products and different brewing methods to discover your personal favorites. See the links in this article to find more information about yerba mate and to help you in choosing which yerba mate product to try.
Now you know in theory how to brew yerba mate tea with different methods and it’s time to start experimenting! Check out some of my yerba mate tea reviews in this article to find a good product to suit your taste.
I hope this guide was useful to you. If you have any questions or comments, or if you want to share your experience related to brewing yerba mate, please post it in the comments section below.
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