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yerba mate brewing tips

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i bought and tried yerba mate for the first time yesterday. good stuff. tastes JUST like traditional japanese green tea. amazing. i poured the hot-not-boiling water over the leaves when the water cooled to exactly 70 degrees C. i checked. hehe. turned out great. wondering if that temp is indeed the best in all your opinions. thanks.

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  1. Hi,
    In most research I've done, it says to never pour boiling or even hot water onto dry leaves. They say to wet the leaves with cool water first, then pour your hot (but not boiling) water over the leaves to infuse. Hope that helps-I love this tea too. Do you use loose or tea bags?

    1 Reply
    1. re: cookee

      ive been using loose leaves in my own little bags. i do it all at home. i have been boiling water and letting it cool to 90 deg celsius. then pouring right on the dry leaves. steep steep steep and drink. its nice. tastes just like well-done japanese green tea. not bitter at all.

    2. I can't tell you much about how to drink mate in the US, but I'll tell you what they do in Argentina (where I lived in 2003-2004). The leaves are NEVER bagged. Loose leaves (called "yerba") are poured into a cured, hollow gourd or wooden cup (the "mate") -- about 3/4 full. A metal straw (the "bombilla") with one filtered end is stuck into the dry leaves and settled, resting against one side of the cup. I've seen people pour a little cold water into the dry leaves before adding hot, but I've also seen them go straight for hot water. I've also seen sugar poured in with the dry leaves, but I like my mate bitter ("amargo"), without sugar.

      To drink, one pours HOT water (just off the boil) into the mate to soak the leaves but not cover them. The pourer drinks first (completely draining the mate). Then the thermos or kettle is passed to the next drinker, who soaks the leaves with water again, drinks all the water up through the metal straw, and then passes the mate to the next drinker. Mate is never drunk alone -- it is always shared. It is never served in restaurants -- only prepared at home, or in a public park (or in college classrooms, on porches, etc etc) using ingredients and utensils carried from home.

      In Argentina, and even more in Uruguay, mate is absolutely ubiquitous. It is prepared in every home. It's tough to get used to, but quite good, and a nice buzz... different from coffee.

      I'd be interested to hear how you got into mate, and where you buy the yerba (leaves) in the States.

      4 Replies
      1. re: DClope

        most latin grocery stores typically carry the yerba...
        lucky me, the one a few blocks away from me even carries an assortment!

        when living in argentina myself, i tended to find that most people inserted the bombilla *before* the yerba... and that there was one mate "preparer/host" for the whole group... and that each time the gourd went back to them and they then passed it to the next individual.., the duty was taken quite seriously... where were you living? do you think it's a regional variation?

        1. re: food.fiend

          I lived in Palermo, in Buenos Aires... though my boyfriend's family was in Colegiales and I tended to spend a lot of time there. You know, you're right, there WAS always one preparer for the whole group... but I do remember them settling the bombilla into the poured yerba. Were you in the capital as well?

          1. re: DClope

            Catamarca... in the northwest... maybe that's it! I was definitely not living in the capital...
            :o)

        2. re: DClope

          It's also common in Paraguay, or was when I was an exchange student in AsunciĆ³n in 1980-81. In Paraguay most commonly the men drink it, less common among women, at least publicly.

        3. I have been filling a Swissgold tea infuser full of dry leaves, then hitting them with boiling water. The first brew conjures up latex paint, a little. After that, pretty drinkable.

          I wonder how an alcohol extract would be . . . .

          1. Yeah... I used to heat the water and watch the bubbles in the glass pot and when they formed and just barely started to release the water was perfect. Now with a beverage thermometer I have tested that temperature range and our "Perfect" water temp is 70-degress Celcius. I try 80-degrees as some have mentioned and find it too hot, too strong, too short of a tea drinking session--just plain not good. I would corroborate the 70-degree theory. Yep. Also--"just off boil" sort of implies it boiled and you're waiting for it to cool down to 70 and that just doesn't work--in my own humble opinion. When it boils the Argentineans say you "kill the mate". I concur; it's not as good: perhaps the air has been boiled out of the water and it's gone "flat". I recommend one of our thermometers if you're not the bubble-watching type.
            Cheers