Water is an essential, yet overlooked part of mate drinking. The quality of the water, its temperature, and even how it’s poured on the mate are all factors that will alter the drink’s performance, taste and health benefits.
The taste of the water should not overpower the yerba mate and of course, it should be as clean as possible. We encourage you not to use tap water unless you’re sure it’s great quality, and/or if you have an extra filtering system. You can also use purified or spring water.
There are millions of articles, blog posts, and forum discussions about what should be the right temperature for drinking mate. There is not a popular consensus, but there are a few guidelines that can help you to determine what is best for you.
What happens if the water is too cold?
Although you can drink mate with cold water - it is called tereré and we have done a guide on how to prepare it - tereré it is not just a cold mate. If you prepare your mate as a cimarrón but the water is not hot enough, the result will probably be weaker and even tasteless brew.
What happens if the water is too hot?
First and most important, several studies - including The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer - have shown that drinking very hot beverages can directly impact your health. For instance, there is an increased relative risk for esophageal cancer, directly related to temperature. According to those studies, the ideal temperature is 65ºC (149ºF) or less.
Very hot water will produce a very strong and bitter mate at the beginning - even with a slightly burnt flavor - and then it will quickly lose its flavor. Because mate is drunk through long periods of time, it is important that it has a consistent performance.
What is the ideal temperature?
The ideal temperature of the water will depend on two main aspects:
Do you drink your mate sweet or bitter? People who drink sweet mate often prefer to use very hot water because it helps to easily dissolve the sugar.
What yerba mate are you using? For instance, yerba mate with stems, which is the one used for tereré, performs really well with lower temperatures. The same applies to flavored yerba or yerba mate blends with herbs such as mint, thyme, rosemary, etc. Yerba mate without stems, however, does very well with very hot water.
We encourage you to always read the yerba mate package and if in doubt, contact the manufacturer. They are specialists in their craft and will be eager to help you to get the best possible results.
In the end, the ideal temperature is a matter of preference. For us, it's somewhere between 65ºC and 82ºC (149ºF-180ºF). We recommend you to prepare your mate with different temperatures and decide which is best for your type of yerba mate and mate habits.
How to get (and maintain) the perfect temperature
While you can always warm up the water if it’s not hot enough, there is some controversy about what to do if the water is too hot. Specifically, if it gets to boiling point (100ºC / 212°F) when it receives the name of ‘agua quemada’ (burnt water).
Your (and our) first instinct would probably be to add cold water or let it cool down until reached the desired temperature. However, mate connoisseurs argue that the water goes through a chemical process while boiling that changes its composition and flavor, and those two ‘solutions’ will not restore the water’s composition back. They recommend throwing out the burnt water and start over.
If you did not realize the water was too hot before starting drinking and preparing a new mate is not an option, you can make it last a little bit longer by adding new yerba. This process, known as ‘ensillar el mate’ (directly translated as ‘saddle the mate’) is a shortcut used when the yerba has lost its taste but the person wants to continue drinking it.
To get the perfect temperature on the first go, we recommend either using a kitchen thermometer or even better, getting a kettle with temperature control.