There are two requisites for drinking yerba mate traditionally:
- A yerba mate gourd or cup, historically made from a hollowed squash or piece of wood.
- A bombilla (pronounced either bom-BEE-yah or bom-BEE-sha, depending on the spanish dialect). It’s a convenient metal straw with a filter, used to draw up hot, infused mate from the gourd.
Today, we’ll be discussing the latter. We’ll focus on a few specific ways to easily prepare yerba mate and some handy tricks on how to use a yerba mate bombilla (the proper way). And if you run into trouble with your bombilla clogging, which, by the way, is the number one frustration for new mate drinkers, no worries, we got you covered.
For those of you totally new to this Miracle Herb, here’s a quick introduction to yerba mate
Yerba mate is a holly plant from South America. It has a deep repository of health benefits, primarily: increased concentration and focus; natural energy; helps the body deal with internal and external stress; boosts the immune system; excellent for your heart and blood pressure; helps regulate diabetes; and, of course, its fantastic ability to heighten your mood and induce feelings of happiness.
To learn more about yerba mate health benefits:
What is a yerba mate bombilla?
The Guaraní Tribe of Paraná, in South America, originally used hollow twigs and grasses as mate filters. In time, these antiquated bombillas evolved into precious metals and steels, creating a bombilla for the modern Matero, or yerba mate enthusiasts.
There are many types of mate bombillas. Some are shaped like spoons, with dozens of small holes as filters; others have more sophisticated mechanisms, with multiple layers of filters, such as the double action bombilla.
Learn more about bombilla types here:
Yerba mate cuts
There are two primary types of bombillas: double action and spoon. Either bombilla can be used for any type of mate, but it’s best to pair bombillas with certain cuts of mate, maximizing efficiency.
The cut of the mate is the combination of leaves, stems, and powder. Some mates have little powder and high amounts of leaves and stems, such as Classical Argentine mates. Others have high amounts of powder and low stem content, such as Gaucho cuts from Brazil and Uruguay.
There are several cut variations between and outside of the principal cuts, but both aforementioned bombillas can handle any.
Learn more about yerba mate cuts:
Double Action bombilla
The double action is your standard Argentine bombilla. It’s reliable and allows for a good flow of liquid with its round spout. Use this bombilla with Classical Argentine cuts, with high amounts of stems and leaves. It doesn’t work as well with powdery mate.
The spoon bombilla is the most versatile and can be used with any cut. When drinking Gaucho Mate (mate with high powder content, usually from Brazil and Uruguay), use a spoon bombilla.
How to prepare yerba mate tea
Here’s a simple illustration on preparing yerba mate. As you can see, there are a few steps, but with patience and practice, you’ll soon be preparing the perfect traditional gourd of mate.
- Fill gourd roughly ½ capacity.
- Cover the top of gourd with palm, invert 180º and gently shake up and down, bringing fine particles to the top and leaving the larger ones below, to act as a natural filter.
- Slowly revert gourd to 45º to gently pour cold or room temp water (this is called Dummy Water), helping to protect the herb’s vital nutrients from the hot water (set gourd down for 1 minute.)
- Insert bombilla directly in the void (waterhole), alongside the gourds wall.
Yerba mate bombilla techniques
We know that it can be frustrating for new mate drinkers when their yerba mate bombilla clogs, so we’ve compiled a list of a few techniques on how to best use your bombillas. Some techniques are for specific bombillas, such as mate molding with spoon bombillas, but most can be used with any bombilla, for any cut type.
Typically done with a spoon bombilla, use the filter to push the mate against the opposing wall, creating space for your filter and preserving the waterhole.
Mate is consumed in “cycles.” A cycle is complete after each time the water is totally consumed from the gourd. Once refilled, a new cycle begins. Depending on the cut and strength of mate, expect to use about a half liter (2 cups) of water per “hemisphere.”
Unplugging the Bombilla
If your bombilla clogs, try to work through it by drawing hard on the bombilla until the liquid begins to flow effortlessly. If that doesn’t work, completely remove (unplug) the bombilla and thoroughly rinse both ends with warm water before replacing in gourd.
All of these techniques are shown in detail within this video below:
Alright Folks, we hope you enjoyed this presentation on using a traditional yerba mate straw, the bombilla. If you’re interested in viewing some of our mate bombillas, they can be seen on this page.
- Elvira de Mejía, “Yerba Mate Tea (ilex Paraguariensis): A Comprehensive Review on Chemistry, Health Implications, and Technological Considerations.” Journal of Food Science 72, no.9 (2007): R138–R151.
- Adaptogenic Herbs Explained — Reduce Stress and Fight Disease (http://circleofdrink.com/adaptogenic-herbs-explained-reduce-stress-and-fight-disease)