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How to Prepare Yerba Maté: Step by Step Guide

Whether you are in a park, on a subway, shopping in an outdoor feria, or in an Argentine’s home, you will soon begin to notice that the maté cup and bombilla (metal straw) are ever-present.  Yerba maté, a drink made from dried leaves steeped in hot water, carries rules and ediquete regarding it’s preparation and enjoyment, a traditional ritual which many Argentines take to heart.  The following guide will help you to not only correctly prepare maté on your own, also —-.

First thing’s first:
Maté is actually the cup or gourd in which the yerba (dried leaves) is placed.  The bombilla, which is a metal straw, is used to sip the tea without filling your mouth with yerba flakes.  Since a maté cup is fairly small, hot water is poured into the vessel several times, utilizing the yerba again and again.  

Step 1   Begin to heat your water.  Make sure not to bring the water to a boil (water that is too hot affects the flavor of the final product), but just under boiling.

Step 2   Fill your maté cup 2/3 with yerba.

Step 3   Tip the cup so the yerba sits on a diagonal to one side.

Step 4   Quickly pour the hot water over one side of the yerba, allowing a portion of the leaves to remain dry (these leaves will provide added flavor for the next cupful of hot water).

Step 5   While placing your thumb over the mouth of the bombilla, insert the filter side into your cup.  Once the bombilla is inserted into the water, it should not be moved or stirred.

When sharing maté with a group of people, after a cup’s worth of yerba maté is sipped, it is passed to another person in the group, and so on.  The servador, who leads the maté drinking experience for the group, not only prepares the maté, but also replenishes the cup with hot water whenever the maté is passed to the next person.  When you finish sipping your maté, pass the cup to the servador, and, once he or she has refilled the cup with water, the servador passes the cup to the next person.

There are countless benefits to drinking yerba maté, many of which Argentines would be happy to discuss.  Maté, which contains more caffeine than black tea, serves as a pick-me-up without the jittery feeling that many coffee drinkers experience.  It has 20 vitamins and minerals, and has a high antioxidant content.  It is believed that yerba maté also helps with digestion, which may be why it is a perfect way to end an asado (assorted grilled meats) feast.

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