Yerba Mate Tea Gourd – The Traditional Vessel

Yerba Mate Tea Gourd – The Traditional Vessel

The traditional way of preparing and enjoying yerba mate tea is by using a gourd and a bombilla. Yerba mate tea gourd 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.

calabash squash
A Calabash Squash, with a happy face 🙂

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).

In the next chapter, I will tell you what kind of gourds are typically used in each country. Later in this article, I will introduce the different types of gourds and their properties.

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.

Typical Argentinian round shaped mate gourd
Typical Argentinian round-shaped mate gourd

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.

Brazilian yerba mate gourd
Brazilian yerba mate gourd

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.

You can buy an original handcrafted calabash gourd with a silver ring from Amazon (the set also includes a bombilla). Click on the image below to find this gourd in Amazon:

Calabash a Traditional Yerba Mate Tea Gourd

Ceramic Gourd – 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 (available on Amazon):

Ceramic Yerba Mate Gourd
This is a very nice looking ceramic gourd that is easy to maintain and does not have any effect on the flavor of your mate tea. I can recommend this gourd to beginners, as well as more experienced materos.

Wooden Gourd – 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.

Here is a nice wooden gourd with a steel bombilla:

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. These types of gourds 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:

Horn Gourd
Note that this kind of horn gourd is quite small, so it is not so practical to use. However, it looks great and makes a nice decoration.

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!

Stainless steel gourd (with bombilla):

Stainless steel gourd with bombilla
This steel gourd is very practical because it is extremely durable, easy to clean, and features double-wall technology for thermal insulation.

 

Glass gourd (with bombilla):

Glass gourd
This glass gourd is ergonomically designed and has a vent hole on the base, to exhaust any excess hot air accumulated between the glass walls.

Glass gourd wrapped in leather (with bombilla):

Glass gourd wrapped in leather
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.

 

How to Take Care of Your 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.

Below is a table with different types of mate gourds and their short descriptions:

GourdDescription
Calabash GourdTraditional gourd made from the shell of calabash fruit. Needs to be cured before using.
Wooden GourdEasy to use. Adds nice flavor.
Ceramic GourdEasy to clean and durable.
Horn GourdTraditional gourd made from cattle horn.
Glass GourdEasy to clean and durable.
Metal GourdEasy to clean and durable.

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!

I hope this article was useful to you. If you have any questions or comments please post them in the comments section below.

You can find some of my yerba mate tea reviews in this article: Yerba Mate Tea Reviews – 5 Popular Brands.

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8 thoughts on “Yerba Mate Tea Gourd – The Traditional Vessel”

  1. 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.
      -Joonas

  2. Yerba Mate tea… have never heard of it, but after seeing this article, I am going to have to give it a try! Thanks!

  3. 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!

    • Hi Buffy!

      Yes the bull horn gourds are really nice. If you have time, check out the other articles to learn more about Yerba Mate Tea.

      -Joonas

  4. 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
    Thank you!!

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