Mate recipe: The Soulful Beverage of Uruguay

Mate, the traditional herbal tea of Uruguay, holds a special place in the hearts and culture of its people. Known for its distinct flavor, energizing properties, and communal rituals, mate is more than just a beverage—it’s a symbol of friendship, hospitality, and tradition. Originating from indigenous cultures in South America, mate has been enjoyed for centuries and has become an integral part of everyday life in Uruguay. In this article, we’ll explore the ingredients and preparation methods for making authentic Uruguayan mate at home, allowing you to experience the warmth and camaraderie of this beloved drink wherever you are.


  1. Yerba Mate: Yerba mate is the dried leaves and stems of the Ilex paraguariensis plant, native to South America. It is the key ingredient in mate and provides the distinctive flavor and stimulating effects of the beverage. Look for high-quality yerba mate from reputable brands, preferably with no additives or artificial flavors.

  2. Water: Fresh, clean water is essential for brewing mate. It’s best to use filtered or spring water to avoid any impurities that could affect the flavor of the drink.

  3. Gourd (Mate): A gourd, or mate, is a small, hollowed-out vessel traditionally used to drink mate. It is usually made from a dried and cured squash or calabash gourd, although ceramic or metal mate cups are also common. The gourd serves as both a container for the yerba mate and a vessel for drinking the infused tea.

  4. Bombilla: A bombilla is a metal straw with a built-in filter or sieve at one end, used to sip mate. It allows the drinker to filter out the loose yerba mate leaves and stems while drinking the brewed tea. Choose a bombilla with a fine mesh filter for the best results.


  1. Prepare the Gourd:

    • Before using the gourd for the first time, cure it to remove any natural flavors and odors. To do this, fill the gourd with yerba mate, pour hot water over it, and let it sit for 24 hours. Afterward, empty the gourd, rinse it thoroughly, and let it dry completely.
    • Once the gourd is cured, fill it about two-thirds full with yerba mate. Tilt the gourd slightly and shake it gently to distribute the yerba mate evenly along one side, leaving the other side empty for the bombilla.
  2. Insert the Bombilla:

    • Insert the bombilla into the empty side of the gourd, making sure that the filter end is submerged in the yerba mate. The bombilla should be positioned at an angle, with the filter near the bottom of the gourd and the straw extending out over the top.
  3. Add Water:

    • Heat the water to just below boiling (around 160-180°F or 70-80°C). Pour a small amount of hot water into the empty side of the gourd, allowing it to soak into the yerba mate and moisten it. This helps release the flavors and aromas of the yerba mate without scalding it.
  4. Brew the Mate:

    • Once the yerba mate has absorbed the initial water, fill the gourd with hot water to the brim. Avoid pouring the water directly onto the bombilla to prevent it from becoming clogged with loose mate leaves.
    • Let the mate steep for a few minutes to allow the flavors to infuse into the water. The brewing time can vary depending on personal preference, but it is typically around 3-5 minutes. Longer steeping times will result in a stronger and more bitter brew, while shorter steeping times will produce a milder flavor.
    • Sip the mate slowly through the bombilla, taking care not to disturb the yerba mate leaves at the bottom of the gourd. Rotate the bombilla occasionally to ensure that each sip contains a balanced blend of flavors.
  5. Refill and Enjoy:

    • As you drink the mate, the water level will gradually decrease. When the mate becomes weak or loses its flavor, you can refill the gourd with hot water and continue drinking. It’s common for mate drinkers to share the same gourd and bombilla with friends and family, passing it around in a circle during social gatherings.

Tips for Enjoying Mate:

  • Share with Friends: Mate is often enjoyed as a social activity, with friends and family gathering to share a gourd of mate and engage in conversation. Passing the mate gourd around in a circle is a time-honored tradition that fosters a sense of camaraderie and connection.
  • Experiment with Flavors: While traditional mate is made with plain yerba mate and hot water, you can customize the flavor by adding herbs, spices, or citrus fruits to the brew. Some popular additions include mint, lemongrass, orange peel, and cinnamon.
  • Stay Hydrated: Mate has diuretic properties due to its caffeine content, so it’s important to drink plenty of water alongside mate to stay hydrated. Avoid drinking mate on an empty stomach or late in the evening, as it may interfere with sleep.
  • Care for Your Gourd and Bombilla: Proper care and maintenance of your mate gourd and bombilla will ensure that they last for years to come. Rinse the gourd and bombilla thoroughly after each use and allow them to air dry completely. Avoid using soap or abrasive cleaners, as they can alter the flavor of the mate.
  • Respect the Ritual: Mate is more than just a beverage—it’s a ritual that holds deep cultural significance in Uruguay and other South American countries. When sharing mate with others, observe the customs and traditions associated with the drink, such as passing the gourd in a clockwise direction and saying “gracias” when you’re finished.

In conclusion, mate is a cherished beverage in Uruguay, celebrated for its rich flavor, energizing properties, and communal rituals. By following the traditional preparation methods and embracing the cultural customs associated with mate, you can experience the warmth and camaraderie of this beloved drink wherever you are. So gather your gourd, prepare your yerba mate, and enjoy the soulful flavors of Uruguay’s national beverage with friends and family.

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