Back in October I wrote a piece about Palo Santo yerba mate cups, specifically the two pictured above. Six months on I thought I would re-visit these mates to see how they are fairing after a decent amount of usage. If you’ve recently bought a Palo Santo cup and want to know how to cure and care for it properly then I strongly suggest you go back and read the original article.
Palo Santo, otherwise known as Bursera Graveolens, is a hardwood tree that grows widely across Southern and Central America. Most of the wood used to make mates grows in the Gran Chacho region of Northern Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. For many generations the wood has been used in traditional medicine to treat ailments of the stomach, one such treatment involving the burning of the wood along with yerba mate leaves and feathers of the Rhea bird.
In more recent times, Palo Santo wood has been used for incense making, and the essential oil is popular in aromatherapy. The burning of Palo Santo has traditionally been believed to rid the home of negative energy.
Its use as an aromatic accompaniment can offer us some clues as to why it has became a popular choice for the production of yerba mate drinking cups, that is to say it is naturally fragrant, pairing excellently with the smoky and earthy tones of yerba mate.
Both of the cups have each been used on average 2 to 3 times per week, and both are holding up very well. Neither of them have been re-cured or re-oiled, although some believe doing so occasionally is a good way of prolonging the life of the wood.
As you will see from the selection of images, the interior of both cups now appears much more worn, with scrape marks from the bombilla (metal staw) noticeably visible.
Although I point out the cracks, neither gourd has suffered any sort of significant fissure, whereby the structural integrity of the mate is compromised. As I highlighted in the previous article, Palo Santo cups are almost certainly going to crack to some degree, yet in most cases this will not cause problems for the drinker. As long as you take care to cure you gourd in the correct way, your Palo Santo mate should prove nice and hardy, as these two cups have done so far.
The complexion of the wood has also taken on a fair amount of colour from the yerba itself, and when combined with the many tiny hairline cracks, this gives the cups unique identities quite different from one another.
The smaller gourd that was originally cured with the addition of whiskey still retains an edge when it comes to the fragrance of the hot wood, although I can’t be certain whether it produces better tasting mates. Given the centrality of smell to flavour though I am fairly positive it is making some difference.
If you’ve yet to add a Palo Santo gourd to your marewares collection then do not hesitate, the unique aromas produced by this soft and fragrant wood really are unmatched.