Are you excited about starting to drink mate but not sure where to begin? Are you overwhelmed with all the options available? If so, this is the guide for you. We have narrowed down the main aspects to consider when choosing a mate cup and created an easy 2-step tutorial.
Main aspects to consider
1. What type of mate will you be drinking?
This is a big question, but it is the most important one when deciding which mate cup to get.
Although mate can vary from region to region and person to person, there are four main types of styles of mate drinking, which roughly correspond to the country where it is consumed. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay have a typical way of drinking mate which is, fortunately, easy to identify.
If you have already tried mate and you liked it the way it was prepared, we highly recommend starting with it and asking whoever prepared it. If that is not possible, try to remember: was it cold or hot? Was it sweet or bitter? Did it have a strong or soft taste? Did you taste something else than the yerba mate?
If you have not tried mate yet or if you are unsure, the following basic guidelines can help you decide. We know all materos have their own way of preparing and drinking mate, independently of where they come from, and these are generalizations. However, we think that knowing the main characteristics of each mate will be useful to start your mate journey.
Argentinian yerba mate has a higher proportion of stems, which give the mate a softer taste compared to Uruguayan mate or Chimarrão. It is consumed hot and it is very common for Argentinians to mix the yerba with herbs or spices, as well as drinking hot and sweet mate.
Chimarrão, which is consumed in the South of Brazi, generally has a lighter, fresher and softer taste than Argentinian and Uruguayan yerba mate. Chimarrão is great for beginners because it is not as bitter, but it requires a special mate cup and bombilla.
Tereré is the Paraguayan official drink and it differs from the others because it is brewed and served cold. It looks similar to the Argentinian yerba but it is easy to recognize as it is served with fresh herbs, ice cubes and sometimes fruit juices.
Mate in Uruguay is consumed (very) hot, without adding herbs, spices or sweeteners. The yerba mate is probably the strongest and most bitter. The yerba doesn’t have stems as the Argentinian, but it is toasted, dried and roughly cut, looking nothing like the Chimarrão yerba mate.
Still not sure about what style of mate you would like to drink? Do you want to try different options using the same cup? That’s not a problem. There are a few types of mate cups you can use for multiple types of mate.
2. Curing your mate cup.
Although this question might seem premature, it will help immensely to define which mate cup you will need.
Mate cups made out of calabash, wood, and bone
‘Curar el mate’ (roughly translated to ‘cure the mate’) is a mandatory process done to organic mate cups, such as calabash mate gourds or the ones made out of wood or guampa.
Mate gourds are made of a type of calabash or squash, and it is the original and more traditional way of consuming mate. The calabash goes through a simple process before being sold. It mainly consists of emptying, dried and decorated or add elements to make it fit for mate drinking (for example, adding a metal or leather stand so it is stable and can be left on a table).
Mate cups made with wood can be produced with different types of wood, such as rosewood, algarrobo, oak, orange tree, etc. It is then cut, dried, carved and finished to be fit for drinking.
Quebracho or Palo Santo is the term used to refer to the wood of Busera Graveloens and Bulnesia sarmientoi. Although these are a some-what popular option for mate cups, we recommend against buying them. Both types of trees have been registered as endangered species in the Global Forest Resources assessment and in the IUCN Red List. With such a diverse range of mate cups, you can easily find alternatives to those!
Guampa mate cups are made with the horns of the herd. They are also cut and shape accordingly.
It is essential to cure the mate before starting to use it, as it will close its pore and prevent therefore the formation of mold. In the case of guampa, it is important to eliminate the excess of oil and bacteria.
‘Curar el mate’ is, in general, a simple process that is not time-consuming but requires a little patience. You will not be able to drink your first mate straight away, and you will have to monitor it for a few days.
You should also keep in mind that after you have ‘cured’ your mate, you will have to always be careful with humidity and organic mate cups, as mold could appear.
Organic mate ups absorb part of the yerba taste. This is a good thing if you are set in the type of mate you’ll drink, as it will create a more deep taste in the long-run. However, if you plan on trying both the traditional and sweet mate, we do not recommend them, as you’ll taste the sugar on your bitter mate, and have a strong flavor than desired in your Tereré, for example.
Mate cups made out of non-organic elements
With the non-organic type of mate cups, such as silicon, glass, metal or ceramic, you do not need to cure your mate cup, and the maintaining is the same as with any ordinary cup.
It will not absorb the taste of the yerba (although you should remove the yerba immediately after the mateada) and you can use it for a sweet and bitter mate.
What to choose?
Hopefully, with all the information given above and in other articles of our blog, you should be able to decide.
|What style of mate are you planning on drinking?||You don’t mind curing the mate cup||You don’t want to cure the mate cup|
|Argentinian||Wood, guampa, mate gourd||Glass, metal|
|Brazilian – Chimarrão||Mate gourd||Glass|
|Paraguayan – Tereré||Guampa, mate gourd||Glass, ceramic|
|Uruguayan||Mate gourd||Ceramic, silicone|
|Not sure, but want to keep my options open||Mate gourd||Glass, ceramic, silicone|
Other things to consider
Once you have decided on the material, you should think about the size of your mate cup. Chimarrão requires a big mate gourd, and Argentinians typically drink their mate in a small mate cup. For Uruguayan mate and Tereré, we recommend a medium-size mate.
You will notice mate cups can have different shapes: ones that have an ‘open mouth’, like the ones used for Chimarrão and others that have a ‘closed mouth’. Even mates that are made of glass or ceramic often imitate one of those shapes. We don’t think the shape will affect the taste or mate experience, and it is just a matter of preference – so don’t worry about it!
Other aspects to consider can be how resistant you want the mate to be, and or if you are planning to travel or commute with your mate or not. Although usually covered with leather, glass and ceramic mates are more fragile than metal ones or mate gourds, for example. On the opposite end, silicone mate cups are almost unbreakable and extremely lightweight.
What is next?
Now that you have decided which mate cup you need, you will need to decide which bombilla and yerba mate to get. Fear not! We have written an in-depth article about the different kinds of bombillas (and which one works best for what type of mate) and a useful guide on the many types of yerba mate you can try.
We hope this has helped you start your mate journey!