It was in Oct 2001 while traveling in New York that I discovered yerba mate in an energy drink called Venom which is now a totally different product. I was amazed by how it knocked out my headache at the time and how much it lifted not only my energy but my mood as well. I had to find out what this "Mate" listed on the can was. I found a few web sites and purchased some Guayaki and La Hoja. I was very excited to try this until saw it and tasted it. The Guayaki came in a plastic zip lock bag at the time and it was just dust and sticks. They both looked and tasted like someone went into a barn and scraped it off the floor. I drank it anyway because it just felt good.
Don't get me wrong there are folks that like the traditional bitter smoky flavor of yerba mate and you may be one of them, but most folks in the US do not have the palate for it.
Tip #1 Style
I would suggest starting with very soft yerba mate large to medium leaf cut with stems and very little to no dust. The stems sweeten the flavor naturally. The dust adds to the bitterness and strength. A pure leaf yerba mate is good for beginners who want to brew with a French press which is what I did for many years. You can easily control the strength of the brew and add sugars and flavors to make it your own.
My suggestion for your first yerba is the Yacuy Brand. It is very soft, smoke free, dust free with a light herbal flavor.
Never pour very hot water onto dry yerba mate, unless you want it to be as bitter as possible. The hot water extracts the tannins from the leaves very quickly. Maximum water temperature should not be over 160° F. Any juice with vitamin C will help to lock up some of the tannins and smooth out the flavor.
My suggestion is to start off cold (Tereré style). Fill a 4-8oz cup 1/2 full of yerba mate, insert a bombilla and pour cold water over it and keep adding water as you drink. The longer the water sits the stronger it will get. One cup should last you most of the day. You might be thinking that you will not get the benefits from Tereré but trust me it works and you stay better hydrated. You just need a nice big thermos to work with.
Do not spend a large amount of money until you figure out your favorite way to brew. We have some very economical bombillas and mates (cups).
My suggestion, avoid natural mates (cups), they can be very cool but also very cumbersome to deal with. They can crack, grow mold and get funky if not properly cared for. Personally I am not responsible enough to take care of them. I have tried several times over the years and I give up quickly. Love my stainless steel, just flick and rinse, and my favorite bombilla is one of the cheapest on the site.
Hope this helps with your yerba mate journey.
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