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Too bitter yerba mate? We have a solution!

2023-06-26
Too bitter yerba mate? We have a solution!

A bitter aftertaste is one of the defining characteristics of yerba mate infusions. Many people begin to appreciate it after some time has passed since they started their mate adventure, and some simply prefer milder flavours. How can you improve the taste of yerba mate and minimise the bitterness of the brew so that you can enjoy it and derive satisfaction from drinking it?

Summary:

  1. Why is yerba mate bitter?
  2. How to get rid of the bitter taste of yerba mate?
  3. Experiment with the taste of yerba mate or go for ready-made products!

Why is yerba mate bitter?

The typical bitterness of Ilex paraguariensis is related to its high content of tannins, the substances that give the plant its bitter taste. It is also influenced by other factors, such as the method of drying and preparation of the infusions. For example, Paraguayan fire-dried and smoke-dried yerba mate is much more intense in flavour than air-dried mate green from Brazil. If you are not keen on the well-defined bitterness of the infusions, but want to benefit from the valuable properties of yerba mate, a few tips will come in handy. How do you get rid of the bitter taste of yerba mate? Here are some ideas we have tried and tested to make you love yerba mate again!

Yerba mate is too bitter! How to change it?

First step: choose the right product

The range of types and flavours of yerba mate is huge. They differ in terms of country of origin, production methods or additives. Each element is important in terms of the taste and intensity of the product that arrives in the packet and, ultimately, into your gourd. Some yerba mate has a more pronounced flavour, others a little less. Which products are worth looking out for so that you don't end up with too bitter mate?

  • Yerba mate sin humo. Traditionally produced yerba mate is quite intense and bitter. This is due to the production method, which involves exposing the Ilex paraguariensis leaves to the smoke from the hearth and sometimes the live flames of the fire. Inevitably, there is a bitterness and astringency in “smoked” yerba mate that is not pleasant to the untrained palate. A way to avoid bitterness in the taste is the alternative method of drying yerba mate with hot air. The result is a much milder, grassier flavour. Yerba mate produced without the use of smoke is often labelled with the word “sin humo” on the packaging, and the best examples are products from the Verde Mate, Soul Mate and Kraus brands.
  • Yerba mate suave. The word suave in Spanish means “delicate”. What does it mean in the context of yerba mate? In a packet you will find not only the leaves of the holly plant, but also a fair amount of twigs, which have no stimulating properties or flavour, and therefore soften the intensity of yerba mate a little, making it more delicate on the palate. A classic example of “gentle” yerba mate is Argentina's Rosamonte Suave.

The way you prepare yerba mate matters!

Choosing the milder yerba mate is a safe option, but even the mildest type of mate can be bitter tasting if not prepared properly. The basis is the amount of dry product used and the temperature of the water. The easiest way to minimise the bitterness of the infusion is to use less dried leaves. The average serving size should be around 30 grams, but if you find yerba mate too bitter, you can pour a smaller amount of your chosen dried product into the water and increase the serving gradually as you see fit. Another important issue is the temperature of the water – yerba mate should be poured in water at a temperature of 70-80 °C. Not higher! This is very important. Water that is too hot will make the brew taste overly bitter! Water at a cooler temperature than recommended means a milder flavour, but also weaker released properties.

How to get rid of the bitter taste of yerba mate?

What can you add to the gourd to minimise the bitterness of yerba mate?

After reading this article, you will probably already know which yerba mate to buy and how to prepare it so that it is not too bitter. But what if you already have a packet of mate which you are unable to drink because of its bitter taste, or – even worse – you have prepared a batch of brew which, because of its taste, is only fit to pour out? Is it still possible to fix this? Here are some ideas on how to improve the taste of bitter yerba mate:

  • Fruits, spices and herbs. What yerba mate has in common is that it combines perfectly with a variety of additives and flavours. Apart from the dried product, practically anything can be put into the gourd: from fruit in any form (fresh, dried or candied), through herbs and edible flowers, to aromatic spices. Fresh citrus slices, dried apple pieces or sweet cubes of candied pineapple work great. Fresh or dried mint adds a crispness, while cinnamon or ginger adds an intriguing, spicy touch. There is a lot of scope here, and the more additives you add, the milder the bitterness of the yerba mate becomes.
  • Sweetened yerba mate. Surprised? Yes! Yerba mate can be drunk with honey, stevia or even sugar. This is not a crime! If you find pure yerba mate infusion too bitter, you can simply sweeten it. However, it is a good idea to do this before pouring the dried product so that you don't have to stir the bombilla later in the mate gourd – just sweeten the water before you pour over the yerba mate. Remember also that some sweeteners are calorific!
  • Juice instead of water. An interesting idea to temper the bitterness of yerba mate is to use juice instead of water. This is an option for cold tereré, and the idea came from Russian soldiers taking part in the famous War of the Chaco, which took place in the 1930s. They also didn't like the bitter taste of yerba mate, so they offset the bitterness with fresh citrus juice.

Experiment with the taste of yerba mate or go for ready-made products!

Yerba mate has more than one name, and this is due to the truly diverse ways in which it is produced. Some yerba mate is dried using smoke, others using hot air. The smoke is usually well pronounced in the flavour, adding a distinct bitterness to the brew that advanced mate drinkers enjoy. Is your yerba mate too bitter? As you can see, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the bitterness and rescue the flavour of virtually any brew. We encourage you to experiment in your own kitchen, but we also have a suggestion for the lazier ones – ready-made, original yerba mate compositions with fruity and herbal additives. Our shop boasts a really wide range of products of this type. We particularly recommend the Yaguar and Verde Mate brands. For lovers of sweet flavours, we offer, for example, Yaguar Frutas Dulces – yerba mate with the addition of dried apples, pears and mango. Verde Mate Green Fresa with the addition of dried strawberry is also an interesting choice. For fans of the exotic, there are Yaguar blends with papaya, passion fruit and orange, and those looking for refreshment instead of sweetness will find it in citrus yerba mates. We encourage you to browse the range of flavoured yerba mate in our online shop!


Source of information:

  1. Wikipedia: Yerba mate.
  2. C.I. Heck, E.G. de Mejia, Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): a comprehensive review on chemistry, health implications, and technological considerations, J Food Sci, 2007.

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