Fettuccine Alfredo with Malty Erva Mate — My Diary during Pandemic 2020 in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Fettuccine Alfredo with Malty Erva Mate — My Diary during Pandemic 2020 in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Out to eat every night. Fine french pasta. Bottles of local wines. Long walks with newly minted friends. Frequent social gatherings at my language school. Sharing mates (or should I say, chimas!). Then in the blink of an eye, it was all over.

That was my first week in Porto Alegre, Brazil, back in early March. Only a few months ago, but feels like an eternity. A week of juicy reverie, fresh encounters and buzzing excitement,  then everything came to a screeching halt when the global pandemic of 2020 made its mark on Brazil.

Sharing Chimas Erva Mate with Luise during the my first week in Porto Alegre, Brazil
Sharing Chimas (Erva Mate) with Luise during the my first week in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Oh, boy, do I miss those first 7 glorious days.


Oh well…

All isn’t lost.

I’ve been here for coming on 3 months with more than a hot month to go, and I don’t regret a thing, even though I had no way of seeing how this trip would unfurl. I literally slipped into the country a few days before borders were sealed. And coming from New York, I’d call that double luck!

Let’s just say, I’m not the same person I was three months ago. Isolation promotes deep reflection. Already an introspective introvert that basks in my alone time, this is Monk Level and I’m cool with that. It’s like my INFJ personality went Super Saiyon!

It’s not easy to explain, but I look at the situation as a sort of training. The earth, itself, is a training facility and each situation like this is another course within the Greater Universal Training.

My intuition pencil has sharpened and I’ve tapped new barrels of creativity. I can feel so so so much more, both of myself and of others. Empaths will understand me well. Within the doubt and uncertainty, light and wisdom has shown through the darkness.

Working on a new collection

Sabado Cups - Traditional Brazilian Cuai Mate Gourd
Sabado Cup – Traditional Brazilian Cuai Mate Gourd

Most of my days have been spent working on the Spring Summer 2020 Circle of Drink Collection with traditional Brazilian cuais (gourds), bombas (bombillas) as the central theme, supported by a range range of accessories such as mate-inspired pins and pendants.

I’ve also been working on new mateware instruments such as scoopers (working name: Mate Scoop); tampers to mold mate inside the gourd (working name: Mate Shaper);  and a new line of Circle of Drink necklaces in 14k and 925 silver. Bling Bling!

Mate inspired pendants and pins
Mate inspired pendants and pins


TINTIN Mate Scoop
TINTIN Mate Scoop


Beautiful Sabado Cup in hand
Beautiful Sabado Cup in hand


Mate Shaper - tool used for shaping the erva inside the cuia or gourd
Mate Shaper – tool used for shaping the erva inside the cuia or gourd

Books and Study

My little desk in my Porto Alegre apartment
My little desk in my Porto Alegre apartment

I’m addicted to learning, so being at home has always felt comfortable. Mate and books, yes, that’s my sort of party! Woo hoo! I’m re-reading Think and Grow Rich. This book has more to do with training your mind to stay in a positive flow than making money, but, heck, the latter isn’t bad either ;).

The Art of Learning by Waitzkin, showing me how to act without any action at all. And always studying all areas of design:  fashion, color theory, fabrics, computer systems, architecture, product development etc.

The Art of Learning by Waitzkin
The Art of Learning by Waitzkin

Exercise, my saving grace

Parque Farroupilha (Redenção) in my neighborhood Bom Fim
Parque Farroupilha (Redenção) in my neighborhood Bom Fim

Daily long walks and jogs, a delicious reprieve and balm to the mind and body. Something about being outside, even if it’s just briefly each day, has been golden. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t join the camp of those who literally don’t step outside at all. No sir! I need to breatheeee…. I need to move. I need to see buildings and the horizon and clouds and birds and trees and ants. It roots me to Nature —  and I am Nature. So, really, it Centers me. I’ll never take a good walk for granted again.

Zaffari, my neighborhood store. Every three days I'm here, like clockwork.
Zaffari, my neighborhood store. Every three days I’m here, like clockwork.
Went for a walk in my neighborhood one Sunday
Went for a walk in my neighborhood one Sunday
Motorcycle rider caught my attempt at a candid shot
Motorcycle rider caught my attempt at a candid shot


18 minutes of seated meditation per day is my magic pill. No prescription needed. Just a timer, comfy seat, and space. Try it and see.

Park Life

Walking to my favorite park, Mohinos de Vento, is always a pleasure. I sit, meditate, snap photos of passersby and watch people. I am a People Watcher. Something so soothing to sit in peace and observing people interact. Am I the only one who loves this? I could sit for hours observing and studying people.

Snapping a few mirror shots
Snapping a few mirror shots
Mohinos de Vento Park
Girl with Good Vibes shirt
Girl chasing dog at Mohinos de Vento Park
Girl chasing dog at Mohinos de Vento Park
My favoite park in the city, Mohinos de Vento
My favoite park in the city, Mohinos de Vento

Mate at Home campaign

We developed a campaign to remind Materos across the world that we’re all together in this. I asked our community to submit an image of mate. Below, I compiled them into a short video collage (feel free to share on your social media!).


Things will never be the same

This pandemic has changed the game forever. How I look at sustainability within my life and business has dramatically changed. Having to send employees home and limit working hours; seeing others with no jobs at all, standing on lines for food; family friends passing away in hospitals; walking past shuttered businesses and people sleeping on the pavement.

How could anyone be the same after this? But as heartbreaking as it is, I’m also thankful for the opportunity to make improvements — insights only collected when you’re in the thick of things.

As my grandma always reminded me “Dave, everything happens for a reason.” Now more than ever, we need to cooperate instead of compete. Share instead of take. Kindness over ruthlessness. Cheer for each other instead of harboring jealousy. Equality over discrimination.

Mercado Publico aka Public Market

Mercado Publico in Historical District of Porto Alegre, Brazil
Mercado Publico in Historical District of Porto Alegre, Brazil

If you’re ever in Porto Alegre, this public market is a must go. Amongst the dealers and wheelers of cheeses, wines, cutlery — most of which is finely crafted from locals, mind you — you’ll find three dedicated erva shops: Banco2, Casa do Erva-Mate, and Gaucho Rancho. All have a wide selection of erva sold by the kilo, prepacked ervas, bombas, cuias, knives, all sorts of erva-related handcrafted items of the highest quality.

Banco2 shop in the market
Banco2 shop in the market
My buddy Adão's shop in the market
My buddy Adão’s shop in the market

We commissioned a few pieces from these talented vendors. In fact, this is where I honed my skills to prepare erva, as I was repeatedly shown step-by-step instructions on how to make the perfect erva. Check this video below to see it in action:

I’m deep in The Erva Zone


I’m still an Argentine mate boy at heart and will always be! But after being in Porto Alegre all this time, I’ve unlocked a new appreciation for erva mate, aka chimarrão. There’s really nothing else like it.

Once you learn how to properly make it, you then learn how to enjoy it. These two go hand-in-hand. And I’m not afraid to admit, after so many years stumbling around trying to make erva back in New York, I still didn’t truly know the ins-and-outs of how to prepare erva.

And let me tell you, preparing erva make preparing yerba look like childsplay. Utterly different methods involved. It’s tricky business!

But it all comes down to extra patience when allowing the water to sit and then carefully molding it back to shape the waterhole. And, dare I say, this can only only only be done with a proper Brazilian cuia and bomba (a bombilla with an incredibly high filter-count) — and if you’re really in the know, you’ll also have a Mate Shaper on hand for fine tuning the erva.

I had these tools back home, but never deployed them like I am these days. I’m in the Erva Zone. And this new zone was the inspiration for the new collection. See all the goodies I’m bringing back for you…. See those beautiful cuias right there! We had them handcrafted just for Circle of Drink by local Artisans.

Packing up our handcrafted Sabado Cups for SS20 Collection - released in July
Packing up our handcrafted Sabado Cups for SS20 Collection – released in July

Phhhewwww…. they’re out of this world! I’m super excited about these pieces. Every day I wake up and grab one of these buttery-smooth cuias that hold a ton of erva, and I joyfully prepare a ginormous gourd of malty deliciousness.

Expect them to hit our shop in early July. Get one while you can. This may be one of those one-off collections never to be seen again a la Quantum Cups that only make a rare appearance every few years or so.

Curitiba (coo-ree-CHEEEE-bah)

Next week I’m heading north to Curitiba in the State of Paraná. Did you know that there’re only 3 states in the entire Brazil (out of 26), where traditional erva mate is regularly consumed? Yup, only the Southernmost three states:

  • State of Paraná (Curitiba is the capital)
  • State of Rio Grande do Sul (where I currently reside in Porto Alegre)
  • State of Santa Catarina

While there, I’ll learn the ways of the Gauchos of the region. We’re also working on a new line of Circle of Drink Organic Mate produced in the State. This will become our first truly “exportable” pack of mate.

Many of the larger mate companies produce specifically designed packs that travel well and can easily be shipped in large quantities across the globe. And though we currently sell our handcrafted yerba to more than 30 countries, this move will allow us to expand our reach with a truly amazing traditional erva packaged at the source and ready for global deployment.

It won’t be our super-duper premium hand-blended mate that we craft in New York on the spot, but it’ll be incredible all the same and at a price point that’ll make it more accessible to mate drinkers across the globe.

The ideas are really flowing out here! Could it be the erva?

That’s a wrap, Folks!

Ok, I think it’s time to make a fresh erva or order from Uber Eats for, like, the 10th consecutive day? I really need to get back to home cooking but I’m addicted to this french fettuccine alfredo with sirloin.. It’s insane. What in the world do they put in the sauce?

Anywhooo, if you made it this far, thanks for listening to what I had to share. You have my gratitude.  It hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine, but, nevertheless there has been light, levity, and rich ideas bubbling to the surface.

I hope you, too, have been able to sieve some golden nuggets from this less than pristine moment in time. Remember, it’s your time and your time only, so make the most of it.

Salud, Materos!
Dave Mate

Types of yerba mate bombillas

There are many types of bombillas for drinking yerba mate tea. A mate bombilla is any instrument with a filter used to drink yerba mate the traditional way, from a yerba mate gourd. Bombillas come in myriad shapes, sizes, and materials (plastic, metal, bamboo etc ). They also have various filtration methods, from the traditional coil to the modern spoon bombilla.

Understanding the different types of yerba mate bombillas

As you may have read in our other yerba mate bombillas articles, it’s wise to have several types of bombillas on hand. Just as there are a zillion forms of glasses to best appreciate different varietals of wine, there are bombillas specifically designed for certain cuts of yerba mate.

Spoon Bombilla

Brazilian / Gaucho Style

Spoon Yerba Mate Bombilla

I’m all about these bombillas. They have the most versatile form factor for appreciating all cuts of yerba mate and there’s no better bombilla to ‘mold the mate’ with inside your gourd.

With a spoon-shaped filter, usually dotted with dozens of holes beneath and below, it’ll work for superfine erva mate from Brazil, Gaucho Mate (Uruguayan i.e., Canarias, Galaxy, etc) that’s a bit more coarse, and, certainly, all Classical Argentine mates and most blends.

brazilian bomba bombillaThe caveat here is the (native) Brazilian form of this bombillas known as a bomba (bhomm-BAH). This variation of a spoon bombilla has significantly more holes (filters) than, say, a Paraguayan spoon bombilla (more on that soon). I refer to this as the “filter count”. Bombillas with more than 150 filters (holes) are best suited for the finest cut yerba (specifically ervas from Brazil).

However, you could still get away with using a standard spoon bombilla on all types of mate, but you may have to work a bit harder if drinking powdery mates.

Paraguayan Style

Spoon Yerba Mate Bombilla

More refined and usually handcrafted with a particular metal alloy known as alpaca (aka German silver), these spoon bombillas are notoriously smaller. Their thin profiles make for an attractive bombilla that looks more like fine jewelry than a metal straw. Our Katana bombilla is a good example.

Technically, they were designed to drink cold yerba mate typical of Paraguay, known as tereré (learn about tereré here). However, they’re a perfect fit for Argentine mates, hot or cold. I don’t recommend them for erva and gaucho mates, as the filter count is too low (learn more about the types of mate here).

Hybrid yerba mate bombilla

Hybrid Spoon Bombilla

A spoon bombilla that has a detachable filter is a hybrid between a fixed spoon bombilla and screw bombilla. Our Aretino is a good example.

Double Action Bombilla

We dubbed these bombillas ‘double action’ because they have two layers of filters, hence the double action of filtering. This is the prototypical bombilla of Argentina, no doubt. A shaft is usually slit to act as the initial filtration level (these slits can range from 2–7+; on one or both sides); then coil is placed over the slits and the entire arrangement is encased with a wing-like metal cap securing the base of the unit.

Double Action Bombilla

double action bombilla

The metal cap acts as a latch, easily released to expose the hole at the shaft base—this is important because it allows you to use a bombilla brush to get a good cleaning every once in a while. Our Florence is a good example.

Pick Bombilla

Pick yerba mate bombilla

These quirky bombillas remind me of a dental pick, so we dubbed them ‘pick bombilla’ and the name stuck! They even help in the natural curing process with calabash gourds, allowing you to gently debride the inner skin of these natural gourds, little-by-little, after each use.

Coil Bombilla

Coil yerba mate bombilla

One of the best starter bombillas of all time. They are so simple! A metal shaft encased with a coil filter. That’s it. Nada mas. Just make sure you’re getting one from a reliable source, as some manufacturers use cheap metals to mass produce, sacrificing quality which could lead to rusting. Chrome-plated or stainless steel are the best ways to go. Our Helix bombilla is a solid option.

Screw Bombilla

screw yerba mate bombilla

Extensively used by modern mate drinkers in Argentina and now the United States, Europe, and beyond, the screw bombilla is gaining adoration. Easy to use, clean, and work with. Mostly styled with brushed steel with copper accented handles, they have a modern industrial look and feel. Ideal for coarse cut Argentine mates, but will work well for Paraguayan cuts (hybrid cut) as well.

Fanned Bombilla

Fanned Bombilla by Circle of Drink

Fanned bombillas have a simple ring around the filter of thin horizontal slots. Bombillas of this fashion create more resistance when drawing the infusion, resulting in a taste with more concentrated flavors. This bombilla is good for molding the mate inside the gourd, offering a slight advantage over coil and double action bombillas.

Chambered Bombillas

An awkward bombilla with a tea-ball-like chamber encased in a metal chamber and secured with a metal right at the neck of the filter. This old school bombilla style is certainly out of vogue and resembles something closer to the time of the ancient Guaraní Tribe than the modern Matero. The design is clumsy and inelegant, but makes for a nice novelty item in your bombilla collection.

Chambered Bombillas by Circle of Drink

Chambered Bombillas

Cleaning your yerba mate bombilla

Since we’re talking bombillas, we may as well mention a few ways to clean your yerba mate bombilla.

Using dishwashing soap, you can clean any bombilla as you would a fork or knife. Give it a good scrub and rinse, and you’re set. For those of you Materos that desire a deep cleaning, particularly with flat bombillas, drop your bombillas in a pot of boiling water for several minutes, rendering any bacteria inert.

bombilla brush to clean your bombilla

bombilla brush to clean your bombilla

For your bombillas with round shafts and hole at the base, as seen with double action bombillas, use a bombilla brush to clear any stubborn debris (I recommend using a bombilla brush before using any sort of bombilla that’ll permit it, since some factories leave minute dust / metal particles inside, which could be dangerous).

So what’s the best yerba mate bombilla?

There isn’t one! Use the bombilla that best suits your particular style and type of mate you’re sipping. Any passionate Matero will have several types of bombillas at any given time. So have fun, collect a few, switch up your style from time to time, and mostly importantly, enjoy!

A Beautiful Addiction - Yerba Mate Documentary

Welcome to ‘A Beautiful Addiction.’ A yerba mate docuseries exploring the spectacular, and heretofore, relatively unknown, cultural identity of yerba mate throughout South America and beyond. Yerba mate has a growing list of health benefits alongside a rich social allure of passionate yerba mate enthusiasts known as Materos.

Chocolate Yerba Mate Tea - by circleofdrink

Chocolate Yerba Mate Tea - by circleofdrink

The food of the Gods. That’s what the Aztecs called chocolate. Scientifically, theobroma cacao, chocolate is one our favorite ingredients to blend with yerba mate. The actual chocolate nut is known as cacao. Watch out: don’t mistake is for the processed chocolate powder known as cocoa (that’s the sugary chocolate mix used to bake cakes, cookies, and hot chocolate).

We’ve used cacao to make a few chocolate yerba mate blends here: Chocolate Prophecy and Roasted Chocolate.

Here are few tips when making your own chocolate yerba mate tea

Chocolate increases the robustness of your mate blend, so carefully gauge how strong you’d like your mate when blending. Using the raw cacao bean or powder will have a lighter taste profile; the roasted counterparts will be sweeter and stronger, increasing the richness and body. Experiment with both to see what you like.

Effects of chocolate

Chocolate has a calming effect that produces mild feelings of euphoria. Thank the generous amounts of theobromine, the excitatory compound in chocolate responsible for that eponymous “feel good” sensation. There hasn’t been any studies on this (as far as we know), but the combination of theobromine in chocolate along with mate’s natural ability to also produce euphoria, may have a compounding affect and boost those effects further.

Enjoy your chocolatey mate and feel good!

And share your own chocolate mate recipe in the comments.

Truck transporting Yerba Mate - ©Circleofdrink
Truck carrying yerba mate in Misiones, Argentina. ©circleofdrink
Truck carrying yerba mate in Misiones, Argentina. ©circleofdrink

I’ve been safely traveling with yerba mate for almost a decade and I’ve never had any serious problems carrying yerba mate either directly on the plane in my carry-on luggage or my stowed-away (checked-in) luggage beneath the plane. So, rest assured, since yerba mate is a legal herb, you can safely travel without problems getting through airport security and customs.

Below, I’ll describe some exceptions and offer some tips on how to make sure you always clear your precious yerba mate through customs and airport security while traveling.

How to Travel with Yerba Mate

Did you know that I started selling yerba mate gourds on Circle of Drink with 60 gourds I brought back to New York in my suitcase in 2012? I neatly lined the gourds in a few rows, sandwiched between shirts and sweaters for padding. While going through New York Customs, this was the only time I’ve ever been questioned about traveling with gourds and yerba mate.

The Agents simply wanted to know what the gourds were and why I had so many of them. “They’re yerba mate cups to drink tea from and I plan to share them with family and friends.” “Ok, you can go now,” she quickly responded. And there I went, happily proceeding to my pickup gate with 60 gourds in tow and at least 15 pounds of mate (in original 500g packs).

Follow the Rules When Traveling with Yerba Mate

Then there was a small exception when cutting through Italian or Mexican Customs — an Agent, seeing my loose-leaf yerba packaged in a ziplock bag asked what it was. As usual, I simply responded with the truth: “It’s tea from Argentina… like green tea.” And right on cue, I was told to carry on.

You see, it’s perfectly legal and easy to travel with yerba mate. Remain cognizant of the local laws and prohibitions of the country you’re traveling to and from; make any required declarations (though, I’ve never declared mate as I never seen a reason to); and tell the truth when asked “what’s that green stuff?” The easiest answer is: “it’s green tea from Argentina.” That’s my good luck answer that never fails. A smile or two doesn’t hurt, either.

Declaring Yerba Mate for Customs and Import / Export

If you’re asked to formally declare yerba mate, you may classify it as either “Botanical Herb” , “Paraguayan Tea” or “Mate Tea.” These terms are recognized by the FDA — the federal agency responsible for all food safety within, existing and entering the United States and many other countries.

Getting more technical: every food that’s allowed to enter the United States has an associated “harmonization code.” This code corresponds to a federal database of recognized foods that are imported and exported. The yerba mate harmonization code is: 0903.00.00 and it’s classified as “duty fee,” meaning that you are not legally responsible for paying any import or export taxes for yerba mate. How lucky we are, right!?  Though, if you’re receiving a package of yerba mate from another country, the person or company sending the goods may have to pay a fee, such as an IVA or VAT tax or other associated export fees.

Workers transporting yerba mate to drying factory in Misiones, Argentina. ©circleofdrink
Workers transporting yerba mate to drying factory in Misiones, Argentina. ©circleofdrink

Packaging your Yerba Mate for Safe Travel

Leaving your mate in the original packaging is the safest way to travel. The packaging acts as a self-explanatory sign that clearly states what the product is, where it’s from, and what it’s used for. Yerba Mate Tea. From South America. A drink like green tea. Period. Customs Agents love to see clear and easy-to-understand language that explains a product. It saves them the trouble from investigating further or sampling your product for laboratory testing.

Perhaps you’ve repacked the mate in a bag. That’s fine, too. However, without your permission, if the yerba mate was packed in your checked-in luggage, the Agents may take a small sample from your bag (you’ll notice a clean slick or small hole in the package). This has happened to me many times. If it happens to you, don’t be alarmed. It’s quite fine. Remember, yerba mate is a legal botanical herb (not a controlled substance), so there is nothing to worry about. You haven’t broken any laws whatsoever. Sip easy, Matero!

Traveling with Large Amounts of Yerba Mate?

I’ve packed nearly entire suitcases of mate at times and had no issues. If you do something like this, it comes down to your attitude and how you comport yourself when and if questioned about the yerba mate. Be confident and clearly state that this is tea you consume. Showing any fear or expressing anxiety will almost certainly warrant further investigation.

In most cases, you’re not like me, and won’t travel with more than, say, 5–10kgs (10–20 pounds) of mate, so this won’t apply. But here’s an real example of how I recently travelled with a significant amount of mate.

I wrapped several boxes of mate in what is known as ‘pallet’ or ‘packaging’ wrap. It’s, effectively, strong saran wrap for travel; then I constructed a makeshift handle and checked the entire bag in as a single piece of luggage. I had no issue and successfully traveled with around 20 pounds of yerba mate this way.

Traveling with large amounts of yerba mate. Here's a makeshift suitcase with 15 pounds of yerba mate. ©circleofdrink
Traveling with large amounts of yerba mate. Here’s a makeshift suitcase with 15–20 pounds of yerba mate. ©circleofdrink

A “safer” way would have been to split the mate into a few bags of luggages, interspersed with clothing. But, again, have no fear. We have nothing to hide. The worst that can happen when traveling with a significant amount of mate is that you’re asked to pay a commercial duty fee, if the Agent believes that you intend to sell the product. But yerba mate is a duty free herb, so have harmonization code handy: 0903.00.00.

No Worries, Yerba Mate is Legal and NOT a Drug

So there you have it. It’s perfectly safe and legal to travel with yerba mate. You may also travel with yerba mate gourds and bombillas without issues. For the bombillas (metal straws used to drink mate from the gourd), the most practical idea is to pack them in your checked-in luggage, as some of them may resemble knives.

Safe travels!

cold yerba mate in glass - by circleofdrink

How to make cold brew yerba mate iced tea - by circleofdrink.com

On scorching hot days do you realllyyy want to drink yerba mate? If you asked me that eight or nine years ago, I would’ve said, heck yeahhh! Admittedly, my early mate days were defined by rigid adherence to the traditional Argentine method of preparing mate, which is summed up in a single word: hot!

Summertime Means Cold Yerba Mates

You know, grab the kettle, heat the water to a precise 165–175ºF (never fully boiled, thank you!), then adding the room temperature “dummy water” to temper those gentle herbs, then full on hot mates ready to go. Yes, this is the traditional way. Three season of the year, I’m all about it. But these cold mates have grabbed my heat this sizzling summer, and I’m loving every icy-cold sip of deliciousness.

Here’s How to Cold Brew Yerba Mate

During those periods of hellish heat, cue the ice, cold water, zesty herbs, and your favorite yerba mate — it’s time to make cold yerba mate. Aka “cold brewed yerba mate”, “matefrio”, “tereré” (in Paraguay), “yerba mate iced tea”. Names aside, we’re just talking cold yerba mate. Plain and simple.

Over the years we’ve discussed several ways to prepare cold yerba mate. If you’re interested in those methods, check these pages:

Today, in the video below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide on cold brewing yerba mate tea. I’ve incorporated all previously discussed methods, but thickened the ice with more ideas on which herbs are best for cold yerba mate and shared more refined, step-by-step, instructions.

Warning: this is a long video, so feel free to jump around. I’ve provided timestamp links that’ll get you to the juicy parts of the video.

  • Simple way to make cold yerba mate with a gourd and chilled water [5:53]
  • Using a french press to cold brew yerba mate tea [8:24]
  • Cold brewing mate in glass pitcher for 24 hours [13:16]

A here’s a list of a few yerba mate blends perfect for making cold yerba mate

Princely Peach Rooibos
Throne of Berries
Royal Nectar

    (pure mate – makes a good base or good alone)

Stay cool, Materos.

yerba mate tea in glass jar ©circleofdrink

Does Yerba Mate Tea Go Stale?

Wondering if Yerba Mate Expires? Let’s find out

Yerba mate technically can expire if it’s not stored in a cool and dry place. When mate is stored in a dry area, it can become brittle and flaky, and subtle flavors are destroyed. If  it’s stored in an overly-humid place, it’s at risk of mold. However, when properly stored in a dark, dry, and cool locations, such as a kraft paper big, tea tin, or glass jar, yerba mate can actually improve with age, up to several years; such aged yerba mate has a slight yellow hue and still retains a matte sheen on the leaves, without being overly-dry. Aged yerba mate develops subtle, nuanced flavors. A good example would be Anna Park.

How to Properly Store Yerba Mate Tea

Allow me to extrapolate. If you store your yerba mate in a cool, dark, and dry location — preferably in a glass jar or tin — your mate will last way beyond the two year expiration date on the package (those expiration dates on the label have more to do with politics than health when it comes to yerba mate).

In fact, mate will most likely improve with age, with enhanced nuanced flavors and finer aromas. Effectively, as with wine, aging can add complexity to yerba mate.

Understanding the Expiration Date of Yerba Mate

Does Yerba Mate Tea Expire?Remember, if you’re drinking a mate brand directly from South America, the expiration stamp is usually on the side of the bag, sometimes on the top.

How to Determine if Your Yerba Mate Really has Gone Stale?

Three factors are essential for determining the quality of yerba mate.

  1. LOOK. How does the mate look? It should be an olive green with a thin matte sheen.
  2. FEEL. How does the mate feel? It should have some buoyancy and pliancy. The leaves shouldn’t be overly dry and crumble to the touch. You should detect a slight moisture in the leaves and the stems should be an eggshell white to light tan.
  3. SMELL. How does the mate smell? You should detect the general mate bouquet of toasty hay, green vegetables, earth, and a mild sweetness.

That’s about it. More than anything, use common sense to detect the mate’s quality. If it tastes, looks, and smells good, then chances are it’s good. Sip on, Materos!

Kettle on stove preparing yerba mate - by circleofdrink

What's the best temperature for yerba mate tea?

Generally, the best water temperature for yerba mate tea is between 155ºF – 175ºF (68ºC – 70ºC). The lighter the body, the lower the temperature should be, to avoid masking flavors with heat. Also, scientists are confirming that water that has been brought to a boil is immediately used is dangerous for consumption, so avoid boiled water for yerba mate. If you fully boil your water, allow it to cool for 10–15 minutes before preparing your yerba mate.

Read on the learn more…

It’s a question I receive often and there really isn’t any right answer (at least not in terms of taste, but surely in terms of health, as we know that extremely hot water is never safe to consume).

To paraphrase an ancient Tea Master, if the water quality is an 8 and the tea is a 5, the tea’s quality will be an 8. And if the water quality is a 5 and the tea a 10, then the best you can achieve is a 5.

In other words, water quality matters — definitely matters! We’ll be talking mostly about water temperature, but without high quality water, it really doesn’t matter much anyway, since you’ll always have an inferior tea with low quality water. Granted, some folks only have access to tap water, so just do the best you can.

Am I crazy for measuring water temperatures?

There’ve been times when I’ve been called pretentious and crazy for caring so much about water. I’ve heard it all. “Just use some damn tap water!” or “who cares about the water, just enjoy the mate!” “Stop overcomplicating things.”

But you know what? I’ve lived long enough not to lower myself to other people’s standard just to fit in or “play nice.” Nah, no thanks. Life is too short for all that nonsense. Besides, I was the one always thrown out of class for asking too many questions and sharing too many ideas with my teacher. I’ve always strived for the best experience, no matter the medium.

When it comes to the mate experience, it’s precisely that: an experience. It’s my experience. It’s your experience. No one else’s. So, yes, I will happily and shamelessly drink the highest quality water available to me. Take that, haters! Hahaha… I kid, I kid.. No, actually I’m quite serious.

Do I still drink tap water from time to time, sure. Do I try to drink bottled or high pH (from a machine) water most of the time, of course! It only makes sense. We only have one body, so it’s an intelligent move to treat it well.

Ok, glad we got that covered, now onto finding the perfect temperature for your yerba mate experience.

What’s the perfect water temperature for yerba mate?

The general rule of thumb is not to exceed 180ºF (82ºC). Anything over 185ºF and the mate starts to stress and overbrew, quickly diminishing the strength of the mate and significantly decreasing the mate’s flavor staying power (known as the ‘cycle’).

What’s a yerba mate cycle?

A cycle is each time you fill the gourd with water and drink it to the last slurp (and feel free to slurp loudly, it’s actually a polite signal that you’ve finished all the mate to the utter bottom of the gourd—hey now, no backwashing!). A mate with a short cycle will last somewhere around 15 cycles; a medium cycle, around 25–30; a long cycle, 30+ times you’ll fill the gourd with flavors still present.

A mate’s cycle strength doesn’t necessarily make it better or worse, mind you. Just like the bodies of wine, traditional tea, and beer, there will be innumerable strengths, textures, and nuances that’ll all have an influence on how long the flavors linger. I actually love mates that have a graceful cycle, when the body transitions from bold to all sorts of subtle, light and wispy notes. This is the gourmet experience in action.

So let’s get down to it (get to the point, Dave! Ok geezzz..) when it comes to water temperature and mate. And take it with a grain of himalayan sea salt because there’s always room to break the rule and simply have fun with the mate experience—your experience!

These are just a few things I’ve learned from drinking yerba mate daily for, what, over 8 years now. Whoa, time’s a passin!

Match the mate’s character with water temperature

Floral and soft mate > 145–155ºF

What's the best temperature for yerba mate tea?
If a mate has a soft, subtle, gentle character, usually accompanying naturally fruity flavors found in Kraus Organic, Anna Park, Mantis, and Liebig, you’ll want to stay close to the lower end of the spectrum (145–180ºF). To best appreciate delicate mates like these, 155ºF is ideal. The cooler water allows for the floral notes to express themselves fully, without any masking, gently coaxing the mate’s delicate essence to the fore.

Medium mate > 160–170ºF

What's the best temperature for yerba mate tea?
Mates that have a bolder body such as Mission, Ascension, Cruz de Malta, and Playadito, I usually take the heat up a notch to around 160–170ºF (ish). Not to say that these mates wouldn’t also taste good with lower temperatures, but the higher temps are more in alignment with their medium-robustness.

The idea here is to match the mate’s nature with the best possible water temperature, creating a beautiful harmony. Can I get a namaste?

Big and super bold mate > 170–180ºF

What's the best temperature for yerba mate tea?
For more aggressive mates like Rosamonte, Amanda, La Tranquera and, ironically, softer mates such Del Cebador, Canarias, and Galaxy, I like hotter temperatures. In this scenario, things become highly preferential and subjective to your own taste.

I like the hotter temps with these sort of mates because the higher temps accentuate the natural espresso-like, tobaccoy and malty flavors. In order to expose the nature of these mates, like a egg in incubation, higher temperatures are necessary for that pop! Play around 170–180ºF with bold, muscular, and malty mates.

Alrighty folks, I think that should do it for now. Sure, we could always go deeper and explore all the infinitesimally small intricacies of water temperature and mate, so I’m sure we’ll revisit this topic again. Thanks for coming along this journey with me.

Stay warm, sip well, and salud!

Here’s a link to a nifty digital thermometer if you want to gauge your mate’s water like a mad scientist. And if they call you pretentious, just smile and say “salud to you!”