Yerba mate is traditionally drunk in social settings, such as gatherings with friends and family. The same mate (gourd) and bombilla (straw) are used by everyone. One person (the cebador) prepares and refills the mate. The cebador takes the first drink to ensure that it is neither too strong nor too cold, then passes the mate to the drinker to his or her right. The ritual proceeds around the circle until the mate becomes washed out or flat (lavado). When one has had enough mate, he or she thanks the cebador, passing the mate back at the same time.
Bombilla (straw with a hollow filtered bottom)
Yerba mate Leaves
Optional: Sugar or honey
1. Fill mate gourd with leaves, approximately one half to two-thirds full of yerba.
2. Cover the mate with your hand, turn it upside down and shake the gourd for a few seconds to redistribute the lighter, more powdery leaves to the top, so they will not cause clogging in the straw.
3. Heat fresh, cold filtered water until around 160-180 degrees, at a temperature similar to green tea (not boiling).
4. Store heated water in a thermos to maintain the proper water temperature.
5. Tilt the gourd until all the mate is leaning against one sidewall of the cup, and fill the vacant space with cool water. The leaves will rapidly absorb the cool water. Insert the bombilla into the empty space at an angle into the deepest part of the yerba mate tea.
6. Once the leaves absorb the cool water, fill the remaining space with the heated water from the thermos.
Note: Yerba mate can also be prepared in a French press by steeping 2 tablespoons of yerba mate leaves for three to six minutes, depending on desired strength, in less-than-boiling water.