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Everything you need to know about Yerba Mate

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

You sure must’ve heard of an Argentinian drink that could replace coffee or tea, and now you are in the right place! This drink is, of course, Yerba Mate. It is a drink that has been around for centuries. An experience among families and friends in South America, exactly in countries like Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil.

Everything you need to know about Yerba Mate

Mate is traditionally consumed with a mate (confusing, but you also call the cup you drink it out of a “Mate”), a bombilla (filtered metal or bamboo straw), and hot water. So… If a friend tells you:

“Hey mate, just bought a mate for yerba mate, are you in, mate?” Now you will understand what he means, mate! Let's go through some facts about this traditional south-American beverage.

Origin of Yerba Mate

This beverage is a legacy of the Guarani people. Guaraní people are for them, what Maori people are for us, the most important native culture of our region.

Origin of Yerba Mate LatinoFoods

The Guarani are a very spiritual people and most communities have a religious leader, or shaman, who is also an important social figure, who use this herb as an essential ingredient in their rituals.

Native to present-day Paraguay, the Guaraní people first discovered and consumed this drink from the plant, drinking it hot or cold from the nearest river. The Jesuits learned the benefits of Yerba Mate (known as ka’a in the Guaraní language) through the Guaraní people and domesticated the plant into what it is largely known for today. Because of this happening, the mate was once known as the “jesuit tea”.

How to drink yerba mate? Drink it either hot or cold! (Terere)

Although the most common way of drinking yerba mate is hot, Terere is an infusion of yerba mate similar to mate but prepared with cold water and ice rather than with hot water, this drink can be prepared hot or cold. It is referred to as mate if drunken hot, no matter if it’s digested hot or cold, there’s no doubt that Yerba Mate is the way to go.

The most popular form of drink is through a drink bottle/thermos, so you can take yerba mate everywhere you go!

A crucial tool for modern-day mate drinking. Although it can be made and drunk similar to the way we prepare loose leaf tea, the most popular form is through a thermos with a small cup and a straw complete with a filter at the bottom. The thermos is full of water (hot or cold), and the cup is full of the finely chopped bits of Yerba.


What is the Bombilla?

The bombilla is a in the preparation and consumption of yerba mate, it is a kind of straw or metal tube with one end in the form of a filter or strainer and the other end for drinking.

Unlike a conventional straw, the bombilla has a filter at the end, allowing only the liquid to be consumed and avoiding the ingestion of leaves or sediment.

The bombilla can be shared in a group, since traditionally the mate is passed from one person to another, each one drinking from the same bombilla. This is an important part of yerba mate culture, as it encourages friendship and camaraderie.


The Bombilla should be cleaned regularly to keep it in good condition and to prevent debris buildup. It is also recommended to change the bulb periodically, as it can wear out over time.


Preparing Yerba Mate

How to prepare Yerba Mate in New Zealand

Yerba mate can have different ideal brewing temperatures and steeping times depending on its cultivation and how it’s being brewed. Ask your tea vendor for brewing instructions specific to the yerba mate you purchased. In the meantime, here are a few general yerba mate brewing tips:

  1. Use fresh, pure, cold filtered water. Springwater is best.

  2. Generally, yerba mate is steeped in hot water, not boiling, at a temperature similar to a green tea, around 160 to 180 degrees. This is somewhere just off the boil.

  3. If you don’t have an electric kettle with temperature control, just remember that at sea level water simmers at 190 degrees and boils at 212 degrees. The boiling temperature drops about a degree for every 100 feet in altitude increase.

  4. If your yerba mate came with specific recommendations for brewing, use those. But using about 2 grams of loose leaf herb per 8 oz. cup of water is a safe bet.

  5. Cover your yerba mate while it’s infusing to keep all the heat in the steeping vessel.

  6. Taste your yerba mate after the recommended infusion time (we steep our Teatulia yerba mate for 4 to 5 minutes) and then decide if you’d like it to go a little longer. Similar to a traditional tea, yerba mate can get more astringent and bitter the longer it’s infused in hot water.

  7. Yerba mate can typically be infused multiple times. Each infusion reveals more layers of the flavor of the herb.

  8. Yerba mate can be enjoyed plain, but it’s also not uncommon to sweeten the brewed beverage with honey, agave, or sugar, or even dilute it some with milk or cream, just like you would with a traditional tea. (Mate latte, anyone?) Some like to flavor the beverage with additional herbs, like mint. Others add fruit juice or lemonade to sweeten and flavor the beverage.

Take a look at the many different options of Yerba Mate we have for you here:

Do you want to try it in tea bags? Easy to drink!

Thanks for Reading!

Latino Foods Team

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