Caffeine is everywhere. These days we hardly even take the time to sit down and drink our first cup of hot stuff in the morning, and the explosion of chain coffee houses on the high street clearly reflects a growing preference for hot caffeinated beverages on the go.
For those like myself who prefer yerba mate, obtaining our beverage of choice in takeaway form is difficult, as many coffee shops in the UK have yet to introduce it onto their menus. This leaves us with little choice but to bring along our own, and if we wish to consume our mate traditionally using a gourd and bombilla, then this itself presents a number of challenges. Fortunately I have been taking mate out with me frequently for a number of years now, and here are some of my top tips for successfully preparing and drinking mate when out and about.
Yerba mate is the perfect drink to take out with you on your travels. Whether you are enjoying the outdoors; on your way to work; or simply walking down the street, mate can be enjoyed quickly and conveniently. In Uruguay it is common to see people with a gourd in hand and thermos tucked under arm, taking to friends and casually sharing mate together.
Mate is also great because you can drink it at your own pace. Unlike a big cup of coffee where you feel compelled to drink the entire serving before it gets cold, if you’ve had enough mate after just a couple of cycles you can simply put away your gourd until later. There is also the added bonus that yerba mate drinking utilises entirely reusable wares, meaning it does not contribute to the growing mountain of disposable coffee cups and plastic lids that end up on landfill every day!
My first piece of advice would be to get yourself a handy and portable bag for transporting your mate wares. I am particularly attached to my matera, which has individual pockets wide enough to easily access my thermos and gourd when I want them. There is also a third pocket where I usually store my bombilla or yerba when not in use.
When selecting a mate or gourd to take with you, my suggestion would be to stick to natural materials. Avoid ceramic and glass mates as they will be more likely to crack if dropped; calabash and wooden gourds are going to be the most sturdy. I once had a leather wrapped glass gourd which eventually cracked at the base after being put down in my bag one too many times. If you do opt for a ceramic or glass mate to take out, perhaps consider one with a stand.
I would make a similar suggestion when choosing a flask. Glass may retain heat slightly better than steel, but glass walled flasks are considerably more fragile and best avoided on the go. I once took a glass flask to a festival which cracked in transit, and was unable to drink mate all day as my water had gone cold.
Temperature is a factor I always consider when drinking mate outside, especially living in the UK during the colder months. A gourd will go colder much quicker between rounds when not at room temperature, and I always aim to heat my water a few degrees higher if heading outside. This will help to pre-warm the drinking vessel so as to avoid luke-warm brews. I sometimes pour a little hot water onto the mouthpiece area of the bombilla before filling up the mate, as this can also get very cold at certain times of the year. Also make sure to securely screw the lid of your thermos tight, or flip the pourer closed when you have finished with it, as this will help to retain the temperature of your water throughout the day. A mate wrapped in metal or leather will also cool down less quickly than one where the material is bare to the elements.
When I drink mate on the go I tend to select a yerba which has a good long cycle, meaning that I am unlikely to need to re-prepare it in a hurry. Uruguayan yerbas such as Sara Roja and Del Cebador I find good for this, but a strong Argentine mate like Taragui Azul or Kraus Gaucho would also work well. I also tend to prefer a larger gourd when out, as I can drink more without needing to refill the hot water as often.
The final question I always consider before leaving the house with mate is will there be somewhere where I can comfortably and easily prepare it? If heading to a familiar spot, then this will of course be of little concern, but if travelling somewhere new then perhaps consider preparing your mate at home in advance, so when out you can just focus on drinking it. Once again, the addition of a specially made carry case will make this much easier.
Got any top tips of your own, let me know? firstname.lastname@example.org