Curing your mate gourd
If my last post (Yerba mate in a gourd) inspired you to try the traditional South American method of drinking yerba mate, you’ll need to get yourself a mate gourd.
As a reminder, it’s pronounced MAH-tay, it’s spelled “mate” in Spanish, and often spelled “maté” in English as a hypercorrection to differentiate it from the English word “mate.”
You can find mate gourds in many tea shops and just about any place that sells loose-leaf yerba mate. There are zillions of online sources as well, but if you like being able to see the actual gourd you’ll be buying, you’ll probably end up in a brick-and-mortar shop.
Once you get the gourd home, you don’t just start drinking from it. Before using your new gourd for the first time, you’ll need to cure it to assure the best flavor and longest gourd life. Here’s the process:
- Put a couple of tablespoons of dry yerba mate leaf in your gourd.
- Fill it all the way to the top with hot water, but NOT boiling water! Boiling water can crack your gourd.
- Let it sit for 24 hours, and then dump out the liquid and the leaves. Don’t drink it. It will taste horrible.
- Thoroughly rinse the inside of the gourd with hot water.
- Gently scrape the inside of the gourd with a spoon. Don’t use a knife. Be careful scraping around the stem at the bottom; if you take out the stem, your gourd will leak.
- Dry the gourd completely. Set it upside down on a drying rack or prop it up where air can circulate and moisture can drip out.
Congratulations! Your gourd is now ready to use.
You only have to go through this curing process once, but you’ll want to make sure to rinse and dry completely after each use or you risk growing mold inside it. Don’t use soap! It can soak into the porous surfaces of the gourd and ruin the flavor of the mate next time you use it. A good rinse with warm water will do the trick.
Over time, the inside of your gourd will become stained, taking on the green color of the mate leaf. Don’t worry about it. That’s just a sign of a well-seasoned gourd.