Mate tea is a very popular beverage in South America. The name is used for the infusion made with leaves from the paraguay tea bush (Ilex paraguariensis), or ‘yerba maté’. The native South American tribes drink maté for centuries as a remedy against heat, hunger and exhaustion. The caffeine which it contains is bound with the tanine and can be absorbed gradually. That allows a tonic effect which lasts longer than with coffee.
Nowadays the paraguay tea bush is grown in Brazil, Argentine and Paraguay, and the tea is very popular in these countries.
El Classico (Argentine)
Before using your calabaza* for the first time, let it stay overnight (24 hours) filled with ¾ maté and water. This allows the pores in the walls of the gourd to absorb the tea aroma and then close. When you use metal, glass or ceramic cups you don’t need to prepare them in advance.
Fill ¾ of the calabaza with maté. Cover it with your palm and shake it, making sure you turn it upside-down a couple of times. The finest powder of the maté which can block the bombilla, will remain on your palm. Now tilt the calabaza sideways until all the maté is in one corner. Fill a fourth of its volume with cold water. Put the bombilla** in all the way to the bottom and wait for half a minute. Do not move the bombilla and do not stir the maté, because the finer particles might block the holes. Heat up some water to 80 degrees Celsius without boiling it (until small bubbles start raising from the bottom of the pot). Pour carefully into the calabaza, filling it to the middle. You can pour over the bombilla. It is important that the maté on the top remains dry. The best results are achieved with mountain or spring water***. Wait another 2-3 minutes. Then fill up to ¾ of the calabaza. Your tea is ready! Now you can drink through the bombilla and savour this classical Argentinian maté. You can refill the calabaza with hot water 5-10 times but when you feel a change in the flavour, you have to prepare it a-new. This is the ideal drink for a family gathering, or for a party with close friends. Everybody uses the same bombilla. Remember not to move it.
*Calabaza – a hollow gourd used traditionally as a cup
**Bombilla – a straw ending with a sift
***According to some sources the best maté is produced with hard water.
The fresh leaves of the Paraguay tea bush contain 0.35-1.7% caffeine, 0.1-0.2% teobromine, teopiline, and 4-16% enzymes (natural tanine acids).
The text is based on: www.mate-tee.de
The European Way
1 teaspoonful per cup (0.2 l), 5-6 teaspoonfuls per litre.
Boiling water (freshly boiled); pour the water over the maté and leave it to brew.
Brewing time: 5-10 min. As with black tea, the maté has a stronger tonic effect when brewed for a shorter period (5 min.), and gets milder after 10 min.
The leaves of the maté are not taken out of the cup (or calabaza) when drinking. The sift on the straw prevents their swallowing.