The Yerba Mate Gourd

Traditional Yerba Mate Gourd Curing and Care Instructions

For traditional Brazilian Gaucho style Yerba Mate

Warning: Do not put boiling water in the gourd or your gourd may crack. Boiling water also harms the yerba mate and can burn your mouth.

Yerba Mate Gourd

The Yerba Mate Gourd

The Yerba Mate gourd, known as cabaça, calabaza, cuia or porongo, is made from the fruit of a gourd vine (Iagenaria vulgaris, cucurbitaceous family). Its preferred size and shape vary from region to region. These natural gourds are widely tailored and decorated, taking on various forms and colors, according to each gaucho’s taste.

Mate Factor gourds are harvested and prepared in the traditional fashion, naturally treated and individually decorated on the outside by a craftsman. The finished gourd, being natural, will have its own unique characteristics. Both on the inside and on the outside the gourd may show dark brown or grey stains that characterize the plant. These should not be seen as deformities or blemishes in the gourd, but as natural markings.

How to Cure Your Yerba Mate Gourd

For your gourd to be ready for use, it needs to be cured. This prevents cracking, molding, and improves the flavor of your chimarrão[1]. You will notice that the longer you use your gourd, the better your yerba mate will taste.

Fill the gourd half-way with Yerba Mate. Add 1 tablespoon of ashes (from fire wood or other burnt plants – do not use ashes from coal or other non-vegetable sources). Finally, pour hot water into the gourd until it is full. Let the gourd sit in a well-ventilated place for 2-3 days, always topping it off with water as the gourd absorbs it. After 3 days pour out the contents of the gourd and rinse thoroughly in running water. Your gourd is ready for use!

Another way of doing this that probably yields better results is to mix only the ashes and water in the gourd and let that sit for 24 hours, followed by drying it in a well ventilated place for 72 hours then curing it with the maté for another 48 hours. This process is more time-consuming, but should produce a more durable gourd.

Taking Good Care of Your Yerba Mate Gourd

After you have cured your gourd and are using it, it is essential that you know how to take good care of it. A good gourd should last you a long time, giving you years of flavorful yerba mate drinking. First of all, the gourd should never be dropped. Although it may not look delicate, the gourd is like a piece of fine china. If dropped or abused, small cracks may begin to form which increase with time, creating leaks and compromising your gourd.

The gourd is also prone to mold if not dried correctly. To keep you gourd dry between uses, rinse it out well with running water and position it in a well-ventilated, warm place, preferably at a 45° angle so that the circulating air flows through the gourd. Optionally, reserve a cotton cloth to dry the excess water after rinsing the gourd. In case signs of mold (usually white or black “furry” spots) do appear once the gourd is cured, rinse the gourd in scalding water. You may, as an option, use a little hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2), then rinse thoroughly with water. Cure the gourd with ashes again to remove and destroy any residue left by the mold.

If you are prone to have allergic reactions to molds, do not try to reuse the gourd. The Mate Factor is not responsible for personal health problems acquired through the misuse of gourds, the failure to follow the instructions above, or the use of a gourd once it has molded. The instructions provided in case of mold are intended to instruct our customers on how the native peoples traditionally deal with molding gourds.

[1]Pronounced Shee-maw-HUH-oo; in Brazil, the name attributed traditionally to the infusion of yerba mate prepared in the gourd.

Traditional Yerba Mate Gourd Packing Instructions

(For traditional Brazilian Gaucho style Yerba Mate tea. Demonstrated in photos by Roque B. Reis - a real Gaucho.)

Warning - Do not put boiling water in your gourd or it may crack. Boiling water also harms the maté and can burn your mouth!)

    yerba mate gourd
  • Fill your gourd 2/3 full of loose-leaf yerba maté tea.
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  • Turn your gourd on its side and shake lightly so that the mate ends up on one side of the gourd.
  • Yerba Mate Gourd
  • Slowly right the gourd until it is at a 45% angle.
  • Yerba Mate Gourd
  • Pour warm water in the hole that is left next to the Yerba Mate and let it sink into the herb. Pour a little more and a little more, letting the herb soak it up so it becomes moist and a little harder. This will keep your mate standing upright on one side of the gourd like a wall.
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  • Make sure to keep the top of the mate wall dry.
  • Yerba Mate Gourd
  • Put your thumb over the mouthpiece hole of the bombilla (traditional metal straw and filter used to drink from a gourd) and put it straight down into the empty part if the gourd, so that it sits at edge between the mate and the empty space for the water. Fix the top of the bombilla against the edge of the gourd, typically right between the Yerba Mate and the empty space beside it.
  • Yerba Mate Gourd
  • Heat water to a hot simmer, then take it off the heat. Do not bring the water to a boil.
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  • Pour the water into the empty part of the gourd until full. Do not cover the dry part of the Yerba Mate wall with water. Suck through the bombilla (pronounced bom-BEE-ya) to drink. Suck carefully, as the infusion may be hot enough to burn your lips.
  • When your bombilla draws air, refill with hot water. A gourd full of yerba mate is usually good for many refills!