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.
Brazilian / Gaucho Style
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.
The 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!