Adding sweeteners, spices and dried fruits is a practice that has been recorded since colonial times, and extremely common nowadays as well. Javier Ricca, on his book ‘El mate’, has created an extensive list of ingredients that throughout time have been part of the mate drinking tradition. We have tweaked and added some other ones, and today we’ll go through other ingredients that you can add to your mate to further experiment with its taste.
This includes sweetened mate with honey, molasses, rapadura, sugar and egg yolk; spiced with cinnamon and cloves; combined with orange, lemon, and grapefruit peel, as well as with shredded coconut; mixed with coffee, tea, milk and alcohol drinks.
A sweetened mate is a popular option in areas such as northern Argentina or central Chile. Before using a natural mate gourd for this type of mate, it is important to remember that the gourd will absorb the sweet taste, so we will recommend designating a special mate gourd just for this mate (that is if you also want to drink mate without sugar).
Adding sugar is probably the easiest and most common way of having sweet mate, but you should be mindful about how much sugar you are adding to your mate, as it can quickly add up!
There are four basic ways of incorporating it:
Add a sugar cube or two teaspoons of sugar to the mate gourd and add the yerba. Cover the top of the gourd and shake it up and down so that yerba mate and sugar are combined. Then, continue as usual. Alternatively, you can add half a teaspoon of sugar on top of the yerba but close to the bombilla, and continue adding sugar as desired.
Put a sugar cube or a teaspoon in your mouth before drinking the mate (just every once in a while!)
Add sugar to the thermos, and then add water. Although the amount of sugar will vary from person to person, always make sure all the sugar is dissolved before adding more.
The last and more sophisticated way will provide a more caramelized flavor, but it requires more work preparing it.
To make it, you will need to put the sugar in the mate gourd with a couple of embers, which will burn and stick the sugar to the gourd. Because the sugar on the walls will dissolve quickly you will need to add more (using one of the other ways mentioned) once the taste starts to fade away.
Another method - used in the center and north Argentina - is to use an iron, heating it until is so hot it is red, and then introduced into a sugar container and let it drip directly to the mate gourd.
Mate with egg yolks and sugar was consumed in the late 18th and 19th Century, having the connotation of luxury and refinement, and being considered visually attractive as it produces a highly foamy mate.
To try it out, just whisk two or three egg yolks with half a cup of sugar. Then, add a teaspoon of the mixture before every cebada ( that is, every time you are about to pour the hot water).
Mate misqui is the term used for mate with honey. This is because in the north of Argentina lives a type of bee that creates the honeycomb in the soil, half a meter under the surface. The native people, Quechuas, called this honey allpa-misqui: allpa means earth, and misqui means honey. With time, this denomination extended to all types of mate with honey.
To have a mate misqui, you can either grab a teaspoon of honey, put it in your mouth and drink the mate, or add honey into the hot water.
This thick, dark syrup comes from the crystallization of sugar, and it has been used to sweeten the mate by adding it to the hot water.
Rapadura is a sweet made with cane honey and milk, traditionally consumed in Brazil. To drink it with mate, a teaspoon is either put in the mate gourd before yerba mate, or just like honey or sugar cubes, by putting it in the mouth before sipping the mate.
Mate with cinnamon was used commonly around the mid 20th Century, and it was thought to help relieve menstrual cramps and throat infections.
To try it you can add ground cinnamon to the yerba mate while preparing the drink, or a cinnamon stick to the hot water.
Cloves were (and are) used to aromatize the mate. To do so, add dry flower buds (one or two) to the hot water.
Orange, lemon, and grapefruit
Citrus zest and peel can be used in two ways: fresh and dried. If used fresh, the zest is added, little by little, with each mate. The other way is to peel the whole citrus in a big spiral, hung it from a wire and put it in the sun to dry. It can then be directly put into the fire for a few seconds, and then cut into small pieces and added to the mate gourd.
You can also use lemon, orange and grapefruit juice to prepare Tereré.
To have mate with coconut, ideally, you would grate the pulp of fresh coconut. However, already shredded coconut will work as well - just be mindful of added sugars.
A teaspoon of coconut is added at the start of the cebadura then another one is added after drinking half a liter.
Coffee and Tea
Although it is not certain when coffee was first combined with mate, there are records of it already in 1867. This mixture is still used, particularly in the central area of Argentina - in the provinces of Entre Ríos, Misiones and Corrientes - where is considered a dessert.
To have mate with coffee you should add a teaspoon of coffee, every once in awhile, on top of the yerba mate before the cebada, alongside with sugar. The same technique is applied to have mate with black or green tea.
It is important to mention that the mate gourd will absorb the taste of the coffee or tea, so it is recommended to have used a mate gourd exclusively for this purpose.
Mate de leche (milk’s mate) was commonly since the colonial times and had the custom took hold at the end of the 19th Century. Due to its higher calorie and softer taste, it is usually drunk in the morning, and often given as a breakfast to children.
To drink it, it is recommended to use ceramic or glass mate cups, and bombillas that can be thoroughly cleaned - preferably the ones where the filter and neck can be separated.
Caña and aguardiente, two traditional alcoholic beverages made and consumed in Latin America, were probably the most popular to mix with mate in the 19th Century. Grappa, gin, rum and even beer are used nowadays.
There are two ways of having alcohol with your mate:
A small quantity of the alcoholic beverage is poured into the mate, just like the hot water. Then, the water is added normally. An alternative would be to add the alcohol beverage to the thermos after the hot water. However, this is not recommended as the high temperature of the water can affect the components of the alcohol drink.
When preparing the mate, add the yerba mate to the gourd and slant it as you would normally, but instead of adding lukewarm water (as step 2), add a shot of your alcoholic beverage of preference. Then, continue the steps as usual.
Now you know over 15 ways of how to change the taste of your mate.