The ultimate way to brew and enjoy the full, unadulterated flavor of the yerba is using the traditional mate and bombilla. This method can be done using hot or ice cold water, as well as steamed milk. I recommend using the traditional mate and bombilla for the highest health benefits and the fullest flavor. Drinking yerba this way provides the most amount of nutrients and antioxidants per serving, because the sucking action extracts them from the leaves more fully.
Although initially the taste will be intense and unusual, the haunting flavor will draw you back to try it again almost as if the body recognizes and craves the nutrients in yerba mate.
Steps for Making a Perfect Traditional Hot Brew
Fill ¾ of the mate with yerba.
Place you hand over the opening, invert it upside down, and shake it up and down vigorously. This will shift the larger particles and stems to the top, while sifting the powder and smaller particles to the bottom. This will prevent the bombilla from getting clogged.
Flip the mate right-side up slowly, stopping when the yeba is inclined at a 45 degree inside the container. There should be a high side of yerba and a low side near the bottom.
Pour room temperature or lukewarm water into the low side of the yerba and fill about 1/2 of the mate. Wait for the water to get absorbed and swell the yerba. This is called priming the yerba with prepping water.
After the prepping water has been absorbed, add hot water in the same low spot until it it close to the top. Insert the bombilla filtering end first and while covering the mouth (sipping end) with your thumb, into the moistened yerba and let it rest on the edge opposite to the dry yerba mound.
After pouring the hot water and inserting the bombilla, wait a few seconds to let it steep (this is called “cebar la yerba”). It may take two rounds of adding and sipping all the liquid to warm the yerba up and release the full flavor. You will notice that the saponins in the yerba will create a type of foam when the water is poured, indicating that it is fresh and full of flavor.
If you prefer drinking sweetened yerba mate. Place a teaspoon of sugar or sweetener into the cavity where the water is poured prior to pouring the hot water. Another option is to sweeten the hot water prior to pouring it.
For a smoother taste, after priming the yerba (step 4), replace the hot water with hot milk
As the flavor begins to wear out, pour water on the dry yerba, slowly soaking it by sections until eventually all of the yerba in the mate will be moistened.
Another method it to switch the bombilla directly to the other end, under the mound of drier yerba and begin pouring water there. This is called over the mound.
When all of the yerba is soaked and has lost its flavor (yerba lavada), you are finished and can repeat the steps for another round or discard it. Other than a reduced intensity in the flavor, another way to know when the yerba is spent is it stops foaming when water in poured.
Traditional Tereré (cold brew)
Tereré is traditionally drunk from a modified bovine horn know as a guampa but a traditional mate cup will work as well. Tereré is great for hot summer days or as a refreshing drink. SInce it is cold brewed, not all the tannins are released, giving it a smooth taste.
Tereré is usually brewed using cold juice or water with juice from a citrus fruit, but plain water will work as well.
Prepare a jar or pitcher of chilled lemonade, citrus juice (orange, grapefruit, mixed, etc), or water with ice.
Place two to three ice cubes in a mate cup and fill ¾ of the way with yerba. Preferably with stems and broad-cut leaves to prevent clogging the bombilla.
Pour the cold juice or water and fill to the top, insert the bombilla filtering end first while placing the thumb over the opening, and wait for the yerba to begin soaking the liquid (2-3 min.)
The yerba may not absorb the liquid completely, so sip the cold liquid. Repeat filling waiting and sipping until the yerba begins to release its flavor. Keep in mind that cold brewing is a slower process than hot brewing.
Since the juice or lemonade is sweet, there is no need to add sugar. However if you are using cold water and prefer a sweet tereré, add sugar or sweetener to the yerba prior to adding water each time.