When people in South American and other cultures gather to drink Mate tea from a Yerba mate gourd, there is even some degree of ceremony associated with this gathering. There are rites performed the same way every time, including gathering around a campfire in reverent silence, pass the Mate cup around the circle, and then ending their time with peaceful conversation. For those who are interested in learning more, read on to know more about what a mate gourd is, how they are made, and how to care for them, so they last a long time.

Calabash Yerba mate gourd

The traditional way of drinking Yerba mate is from the gourd.

Do you wonder What is Yerba mate and where does it come from? The Yerba Mate plant, which is primarily found in South America, has long been recognized as a nutrient-rich superfood. Not only is it a central nervous system stimulant that has been deemed safer and more effective than coffee, but it is also rich in free radical-fighting antioxidants, has been used as a bile-stimulating and bacteria-reducing digestive aid, and is known to help with everything from weight loss to mental focus and cardiovascular health.

What Is Mate Gourd and How Is It Made?

Sometimes referred to as a “mate cup,” a Mate gourd is simply a container made to hold the mate tea as the person consumes it. The cup traditionally comes with a bombilla, which is a straw they can use to drink the tea. For those who would like to use a Mate gourd, there are various options. It is essential to have it if you want to drink Yerba mate traditionally. Find out how to prepare yerba mate like they do it in Argentina, Brasil, Uruguay or Paraguay.


Traditional mate cups are by far the most popular choice among mate tea drinkers. They are made from the fruit of a gourd vine such as calabash squash, and they need to be cured before they are used to prevent cracking and mold growth. Because they absorb some of the tea flavors during use, these gourds have high flavor-enhancing properties that allow them to improve the taste of the Mate tea each time.


Wooden mate gourds are quite popular and often come wrapped in metal to prevent cracking. Wooded gourds are perfect for beginners, as they have a flat bottom for added stability, are easy to keep clean, and don’t need to be cured before the first use. Many people love wooden gourds because they add great flavor to the yerba mate right away instead of taking the time to develop flavor like traditional mate cup.


Ceramic mate gourds have a great look and are easy to clean. They fit in hand nicely while the curve holds mate much like the traditional gourd. That makes it easier to let it steep in the initial cooler water before pouring amount of hot water. Some of the ceramic gourds include a side hole to hold the metal straw Bombilla in place. Most of this gourds are made of lead-free materials and are dishwasher safe.


These types of cups are usually made of tempered glass and may sometimes have a more elongated shape. As with metal and wood gourds, glass gourds are a low-maintenance option and also, ideal for beginners. The glass allows the full mate flavor to come through since it doesn’t absorb odors or flavors.


These are tempered glass gourds wrapped in high-quality leather featuring artwork by artisans. The leather tends to act as a thermal insulator, keeping the yerba mate warm as the drinker consumes it. Many of these leather-wrapped gourds feature a metal rim at the top for aesthetics and to hold the leather wrapping in place.


Made of metal, though some consist with wood on the inside. Suitable for beginners, they are easy to wash and keep clean, and there is no cracking or splitting to worry about as with wooden gourds.


Also referred to as a Guampa, these gourds are more traditional in Paraguay and made from cattle (usually a bull’s) horn that has been hollowed out for the purpose of drinking yerba mate. Many of them are wrapped in metal at the top and bottom for preservation and stability. Some horn gourds are available with a hook on the outside for attaching to a bag.

Horn Yerba mate gourds are not available on Amazon. On the right, you can find bombilla (mate straw) with removable filter head and cleaning brush. Cleaning bombilla is important, so this feature is very useful.


There is a plastic cup available for those who wish to use one while traveling or simply prefer the convenience of modern materials. These cups usually come in the shape of a travel mug and have advanced features.


The mate cup or Yerba mate gourd traditionally comes with a bombilla, which is a straw to drink the tea. These straws have a bulbous filter on one end to separate the tea from the leaves and stems. The bombilla is traditionally made out of alpacca silver. This type of material is a combination of copper and nickel.

Other common bombilla materials include stainless steel and hollow cane, a tall, woody stalk of grass that is very strong. There are sets available that come with everything needed to enjoy the tea beverage including Yerba Mate, straw, and gourd.

Calabash Yerba mate gourd

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Mate Gourd?

Since Yerba Mate is tea, many people in the Western world and other cultures around the globe wonder why it’s best to use a mate gourd when they are drinking the tea. Although it is possible to use a traditional coffee mug or another type of cup, using a traditional mate cup has several benefits that other drinking methods don’t give.

  • Yerba Mate tea has a naturally bitter taste, but the traditional gourds can extract some of the bitterness. That creates a more pleasant tea flavor.
  • Over time, the gourd absorbs some of the tea flavors and release them each time the drinker pours his tea into the cup. Moreover, the tea will be flavored to the drinker’s liking each and every time.
  • The traditional shape of the gourd pushes the Yerba Mate tea up and around the bombilla, making it easier to get all of the nutrients out of the tea.

The best thing about mate gourds is that they can be unique and artistic. They come in many different sizes, shapes, and materials. They can take on many forms and colors. Some mate gourds even feature unique artwork from artists and artisans, which adds to the beauty and design.

What Is The Best Way To Cure And Care For A Mate Gourd

To care for a Mate gourd, the first thing that a tea-drinker needs to do is to cure it. Here are a few simple steps to help anyone cure a traditional squash gourd:

  1. Pour a little Yerba Mate into the gourd. Fill it the rest of the way with water.
  2. Allow it to sit like this for at least 48 hours.
  3. Pour out the mixture and clean the inside with boiling water. Never boil the gourd or it will be damaged.
  4. Put the Yerba mate gourd in the window and let it dry inside in natural light for an additional 24-48 hour.

If the Yerba mate gourd is made of wood, it’s a good idea to rub the inside with oil and let it sit for a day or two before using so that it does not dry out. Regarding daily use, here are a few tips to help with gourd upkeep:

  1. Discard all Yerba Mate after use. Use a spoon or the bombilla to get the remaining tea out.
  2. Rinse the yerba mate gourd and bombilla.
  3. Let the gourd sit out to dry.

In conclusion, Yerba Mate tea has myriad health benefits, and drinking it out of a yerba mate gourd – whether it’s made of wood, traditional squash, or modern plastic – can make it fun and give the tea a pleasant and very enjoyable taste. When gourds are both well-made and well-cared-for, they can bring many years of enjoyment to Yerba Mate tea drinkers all around the world. See step-by-step instructions on how to cure a mate gourd.


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