Updated: Feb 26, 2019
Not quite coffee, not quite tea, Yerba Mate is a caffeinated drink of its own. Mostly enjoyed in South America and Lebanon (biggest importer), it’s definitely another beverage for coffee and tea lovers to try.
Yerba Mate (Yerba Ma-tay, not your friend) is part of the Holly family of plants. The leaves are harvested and dried after turning purple on the branch, chopped into a powder-like form and then mixed with water to make Mate. Yerba means herb in Spanish and it is known as Chimarrão in Brazil.
In Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Para and Uruguay the drink is served in a cut out gourd and sipped through a metal straw which filters the leaves and twigs out. The gourd is constantly topped up with hot water (70-80C) but not boiling, as the herbs are very bitter. To combat this bitterness, the mix is sometimes made up with other herbs like mint, or with citrus fruits like pomelo, or grapefruit.
A Cold Brew Yerba Mate
Enough of the more boring stuff - let’s make some.
After sampling several different mixes, I found a recipe which I enjoyed most, especially for the hot weather. Drinking the beverage hot can be slightly bothersome, regularly finding leaf fines in your mouth or an intense and unpleasant bitterness.
Cold brewing and filtering the mix however, produced a much more pleasant drink with reduced bitterness and a fuller body.
The favourite among family, friends and myself is a pomelo yerba mix for its added complexity. After a full day’s cold brew the result is a mild and light beverage, perfect for hot summer days and without any cloying sweetness. The recipe is as follows:
30g Yerba Mate Mix
1 L Cold Water
Place in fridge for 24 hours
I brewed the Mate in a French Press but covered the top with cling film to avoid flavour contamination. After 24 hours I poured the Mate through the French Press’ mesh and through another pour over mesh. This sufficiently trapped all debris and produced a clear, clean brew.
If the Yerba Mate is too bitter or bland, I recommend adding a drop of honey. Either do this at the beginning of the brewing process to ensure it mixes well or add it after by dissolving the honey into a small amount of hot water. Adding it like this to your cold Mate means the honey will better impart its sweetness rather than dropping to the bottom and not mixing. To make it feel extra New World, you could also use Agave syrup for its mild, almost papery sweetness. Equally, a squeeze of lime or lemon juice will work a treat too. Pour over ice.
What else can I do with it?
Cold Brew Yerba Mate can be used as an alcohol mixer too. In matching flavours, think of how an iced lemon tea might partner with certain spirits. I tried mine with cucumber-infused gin, a more interesting spirit than vodka. The clear spirits make for a better match than dark rum or whisky.
Enjoy and let us know your thoughts in the comments!