The traditional way of preparing and enjoying yerba mate tea is by using a gourd and a bombilla. Yerba mate tea gourd, or a cup, was originally developed by the Guarani people of South America.
The traditional gourd is made from a fruit of a gourd vine, a calabash squash, which vary in shape and size and possess a very hard shell. The gourd plant belongs to the family of Cucurbitaceae.
In addition to the traditional gourd, there are many different types of gourds that can be made from various materials. Mate gourds also come in different shapes.
A round gourd is usually a small one used by a single person. A “neck” gourd is typically a larger one, which can be passed around in a mate circle. There are also cylinder-shaped gourds, which are often made from bamboo and used mainly for drinking tereré (ice-cold mate tea).
Here are the different types of gourds introduced in this guide:
- Calabash Gourd: Traditional gourd made from the shell of calabash fruit. Needs to be cured before using it.
- Wooden Gourd: Easy to use. Adds a nice flavor.
- Ceramic Gourd: Easy to clean and durable.
- Horn Gourd: Traditional gourd made from cattle horn.
- Glass Gourd: Easy to clean and durable.
- Metal Gourd: Easy to clean and durable.
In the next chapter, I will tell you what kind of gourds are typically used in each country. Later in this article, I will describe the different types of gourds in more detail and tell you where to buy them.
I have also put together a comprehensive guide about yerba mate tea and its history.
Gourds in Different Countries
The calabash gourds used in Argentina are usually quite thin and light and the gourd material is hard both inside and out. The gourds don’t have a rim and are round shaped. The gourds in Uruguay and Paraguay tend to be similar to the ones in Argentina.
In Brazil, a mate gourd is called cuia, and it is often bigger than in other countries. Also, the shape of the gourd is different, as it has a wide brim. The inside of the gourd is usually softer, and the sponge-like inner surface absorbs some flavors of mate tea, enhancing the tasting experience.
Different Types of Yerba Mate Gourds
Looking to buy a yerba mate gourd? You can search in your local stores, but unless you live in South America or have an Argentinian or Brazilian boutique nearby, you might have a hard time finding one.
Your best option for buying a mate cup is to order it from an online store.
There are 2 stores that I can recommend: Amazon and Matero. Both of these stores have a nice selection of different kinds of gourds.
Next, let’s take a look at the various types of gourds and their properties. I will also give you links to buy the best gourds for each category.
Calabash – The Traditional Mate Gourd
This is the most popular version of a mate gourd. As explained earlier, they are made from the shell of calabash fruit by drying and curing it.
This type of gourd actually enhances the taste of your yerba mate tea by absorbing and releasing flavors.
This handmade yerba mate gourd with natural color is a perfect starter gourd to take with on your travels. Every gourd has a unique size and shape. You can order it from Matero online store.
Remember that this type of gourd requires to be cleaned and cured before use. I will provide the instructions later in this article.
You can also find an original handcrafted calabash gourd with a silver ring from Amazon (the set also includes a bombilla):
Ceramic Gourds – Stylish and Convenient
Ceramic gourds are quite popular because they often look very nice and it is easy to clean them.
They can be found in any shape or size and with added decorative engravings. A ceramic gourd is very durable (unless you drop it) and can be washed in a dishwasher machine.
Here is a very nice looking ceramic gourd that I can recommend to beginners, as well as more experienced materos (available on Amazon):
Wooden Gourds – Nice and Classy
Wooden yerba mate gourds usually have a flat bottom which makes them easy to use. They are also easy to clean and there is no need for curing the gourd before the first use.
A wooden gourd is a good choice for a beginner.
They often come wrapped with metal to make them more durable. Wooden gourds can also add a nice flavor to the mate tea.
You can order this large wooden gourd with nice carved designed from Matero online store:
Here is a nice wooden gourd with a steel bombilla (available on Amazon):
Horn Gourd – Guampa
A horn gourd, or guampa, is a traditional gourd made from cattle horn.
These types of gourds are traditionally used in Paraguay and are made from hollowed-out bull’s horn. They are not easy to find online – but you can travel to Paraguay to find a large selection of them!
Surprisingly, you can also buy a bull’s horn gourd from Amazon:
Glass and Metal Gourds – Easy to Maintain
Yerba mate tea gourd can also be made from tempered glass or metal.
Glass and metal gourds are durable and easy to clean.
Some glass gourds are wrapped in leather for thermal insulation so that you would not burn your hand when holding it. A glass or a metal gourd is a good choice for beginners!
This stainless steel gourd is very practical because it is extremely durable, easy to clean, and features double-wall technology for thermal insulation. The set includes bombilla (available on Amazon):
Here is an ergonomically designed glass gourd with a vent hole on the base to exhaust any excess hot air accumulated between the glass walls. Comes with a bombilla (available on Amazon):
The genuine leather sheath of this gourd acts as a thermal barrier, that keeps the temperature constant. It also protects the glass and provides a firm grip (available on Amazon):
How to Take Care of Your Gourd
If you have a traditional calabash gourd you need to cure it first before using it for the first time.
Put some dried yerba mate in the gourd and fill it with water. Let it be like this for at least two days. Then pour the liquid out (do not drink it, throw it away!) and clean the gourd with hot water. Then, let the gourd dry for about two days.
If you have a wooden gourd you might want to rub the inside with some oil and let it sit for some time. The oil will prevent the wood from drying out too much.
With all types of gourds, it is best to clean them each time after use and then let the gourd dry.
Never put boiling water in your yerba mate gourd!
The gourd may crack and boiling water is too hot for brewing yerba mate tea.
With a nice and well-maintained gourd, you can have many memorable sessions and enjoy your yerba mate tea for many years!
Get Your Own Yerba Mate Tea Gourd
Now that you know what different types of yerba mate gourds are available, it is up to you to choose the type of gourd that you like. Whether you want to have a simple gourd that is easy to maintain or a decorative and classy gourd, it is a matter of personal preference.
I have tried many types of gourds and it’s hard to choose one favorite.
For daily use its nice to have a traditional calabash gourd that gives an enhanced flavor or a practical ceramic or metal gourd, that is easy to clean. It is also nice to have at least one bigger and more decorated gourd for special occasions such as a gathering of friends and family, or other parties.
Mate Gourd FAQ
What is a yerba mate gourd?
Yerba mate gourd is the traditional vessel for preparing and enjoying yerba mate tea. The tea is prepared by putting loose leaf yerba mate into a gourd, adding a bombilla (the traditional straw), and adding hot water.
What are different types of mate gourds?
The traditional mate gourd is made from the shell of calabash fruit. There are also wooden, ceramic, glass, and metal gourds available.
Where can I buy a yerba mate gourd?
One of the best options to buy a yerba mate gourd is to order it from Amazon. There are many different options available for a reasonable price.
If you visit South America, you can easily find gourds from local markets and stores.
I hope this article was useful to you. If you have any questions or comments please post them in the comments section below.
Looking to buy some yerba mate to put in your gourd? Check out this guide with reviews of 5 popular yerba mate products.
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10 thoughts on “Yerba Mate Tea Gourd – The Traditional Cup”
Thank you for this overview, I never realized there were so many options when it comes to drinking yerba mate tea. I guess, drinking tea should be a very personal ritual, that’s why the choice of the gourd is so important, the material, the size, and shape, the visual. All of these contribute to the whole experience of drinking yerba mate tea. With so many beautiful options available on the market, it’s not an easy decision, but I’ve certainly picked a few favorites now.
Thanks for your comment Martina! Yerba Mate really is a diverse topic and there is a lot of interesting aspects in it. If you have time, check out the other articles on this site also.
Yerba Mate tea… have never heard of it, but after seeing this article, I am going to have to give it a try! Thanks!
Hi Robb! Give it a try man, and read my other articles too if you have time.
I love the idea of drinking out of these gourds. My parents used to have one but didn’t know it had this kind of use. The bull horn ones are very pretty!
Yes the bull horn gourds are really nice. If you have time, check out the other articles to learn more about Yerba Mate Tea.
As an herbalist, I Love Yerba mate but I never thought of all the traditional containers to drink it out of. I believe it would make it so much more a ritual and ceremony to drink it this way There certainly are some beautiful Gourds! I just love the earthy connection I am sure it would make the herb taste much better and give you a more spiritual connection to it . will be grabbing a gourd ASAP
Thanks for your comment Kristin! Happy to hear that you are excited about the gourds.
As a Boy Scout (Eagle rank) in ’55 (year dirt was invented) 🙂 I was selected from a Boy Scout Division in my state of Pennsylvania to be an ambassador and attend the World Jamboree in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a week. I met a Scout from Uruguay, S.A., who became a good friend of mine for a few years. He and I traded memorabilia for some time and one of his gifts of trade was a gourd & straw (silver-not stainless st.)for Yerba Mate. Nice gift and fun to learn about it here and see how far the “gourds” have come. Thanks, Bob-S.C., USA
Thanks for sharing your story! Very interesting. Yerba mate has indeed become quite popular all over the globe during the past decades.