Backcountry Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate is such a versatile beverage, I didn’t even know

The tea bags are handy for ultra light trips and in between climbs (Iced Mate)

about the more traditional
style of drinking till I visited Chile. I was so use to drinking cans of Guayaki, bottles of passion tereré and tea bags (adding different spices, fruit juices, almond milk etc. for flavor variations). But once I tried mate out of a gourd, it changed from being just a drink, to an experience. If you are unfamiliar with Yerba Mate, at this point you’re probably thinking, “WHAT IS THIS GIRL TALKING ABOUT?”

Here are some ‘Mate Vocabulary‘ defined so you don’t feel like you’re reading a foreign language.

Cebador – The preparer of the mate gourd. The Cebador(a) prepares and shares the yerba mate with a group of friends and is responsible for serving a great tasting mate.

Gourd – Also called Mate. The tradtional vessel used to prepare yerba mate. Used in conjunction with a bombilla. The word mate derives from the quichua word “mati”, which means glass or recipient for drinking, but it has been generalized as the common name of the fruit of the gourd plant.

Bombilla – A straw like infuser with a filter tip used to sip yerba mate. Often made of metal or bamboo.

Mateado – the state of clarity and exhuberance of being under a healthy dose of yerba mate.

Tereré – Chilled mate, usually consumed with a Guampa. Tereré is a typical way to drink yerba mate in Paraguay.

Chortle – The sound the water makes as the last bit is sipped or “chortled” from the gourd through the bombilla.

Theobromine – The alkaloid compound in chocolate and yerba mate that promotes the feeling of being in love. Comes from the Greek roots theo (“God”) and brosi (“food”), meaning “food of the gods”.

I use to be a huge coffee drinker till I had to ease off for health reasons. Breaking the habit of 3-4 cups of coffee a day seemed damn near impossible till I found Guayaki’s yerba mate. Wreath-Gourd-imageYerba mate is a drink brewed from the leaves of Mate trees in the rainforest. Mate naturally contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, abundant antioxidants, has the strength of coffee and the health benefits of tea. Miracle you say? Well it is true. Yerba Mate contains caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, well-known stimulants also found in tea, coffee and chocolate (YUM!). The caffeine content varies between that of green tea and coffee. Unlike tea, yerba mate has a low tannin content so it can be strong like coffee with out becoming extremely bitter. Unlike coffee, yerba mate is not oily or acid forming, so it is less likely to cause stomach acid and jitters. The Aché Guayakí tribe have been sipping Yerba Mate for centuries for its numerous health benefits and rejuvenating qualities. It is the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil.

Drinking mate is a sign of hospitality and involves an actual ceremony. The ceremony starts with the preparation of the gourd. The cebador prepares mate for a friend or a group of friends. The cebador/a drinks

Mate with the Rangers of Torres Del Paine

the first one gourd-full of mate, making sure the mate is strong enough and flowing smoothly through the bumble. The gourd is refilled with water and passed counter-clockwise with the bombilla always facing the recipient. Each person drinks all the liquid in the gourd: “you share the vessel, not the liquid.” The recipient can take as much time as needed to finish the gourd-full (and when the water is boiling hot, it sometimes takes a while before it is drinkable without burning your mouth). The gourd is returned with the bombilla facing the cebador/a and then refilled with hot water. This continues till the mate is lavado (flat). If you’ve had enough mate, simply say gracias (thank you) indicating that you are finished. I learned the hard way in Chile, when the park rangers kept handing me the gourd even after I said I didn’t want anymore.

Now that I am hooked on Yerba Mate in a gourd, whenever I go camping or even backpacking, I bring my gourd, bombilla and Guayaki loose leaf mate. Thank goodness it is lightweight. I have received numerous emails asking for details Yerba mate and about

Brewing Yerba Mate at Crater Lake 

how I brew it in the back country. The answer is pretty simple. I have a jet boil that I fill with water and boil. Then I pack my gourd with mate. I pour the boiling water into the gourd, sip till its empty, refill and repeat till the mate loses its flavor or I run out of water. The most important part is to relax and enjoy the mate. The aroma, flavor and warming sensation is unique and refreshing. I love sharing mate with people who have never tried it; Inducting them into the Guayaki tribe. Keep in mind the gourd is fragile and must be taken care of properly after each use.

Another question I have gotten recently is, “Why Guayaki?” I use Guayaki for two reasons:

Mate at Crater Lake, OR
  1. Guayaki Yerba Mate is crafted like a fine wine. Grown, harvested, and dried according to traditions. After passing through a flash heating process to protect the antioxidants and nutritional properties, the mate is dried at a low-temperature and aged for one year for a smooth, rich and balanced flavor.
  2. Guayakí partners with small farmers and indigenous communities sourcing mate from the sub-tropic rainforests of South America. Forest grown mate is actually environmentally sustainable. It also provides more income per acre than cattle or agricultural products.

Just by drinking Guayaki, you are participating in the conservation and community development because you are purchasing fair trade priced, rainforest-grown mate. To purchase mate, gourd and bombillas, or for more specific instructions on how to preform your own Mate Gourd ceremony, visit Try it with your friends on your next trip. I guarantee you will never forget the first time you participate in a Mate ceremony.

Enjoying Mate in the morning while camping in the back country of Alaska


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