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Yerba mate cup – which one to choose?

Yerba mate cup – which one to choose?

Yerba mate is a magical drink from South America with many miraculous properties. Its preparation and drinking creates a real magical ritual and to preserve this magic, it is worth using dedicated tools. Yerba mate cup is the basis. Wondering which will be the best and most convenient? Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each vessel.


  1. A vessel for yerba mate: mate, gourd or calabash?
  2. What are yerba mate cups made of?
  3. Shapes of yerba mate cups
  4. What is the best mate gourd to choose for yerba mate?

A vessel for yerba mate: mate, gourd or calabash?

The people of South America, where yerba mate originates, refer to the vessel in which they drink the brew as mate. This name is derived from the word mati, which means “drinking vessel” in Kechua. Another equally commonly used term for a yerba mate cup is “gourd” (or “calabash” from the Spanish calabaza). Although by definition this word describes the material of manufacture of the vessel, it has become colloquially accepted to use it interchangeably with the word mate to refer to any vessel, regardless of type or material of manufacture. There are many different types of yerba mate cups. They differ in shape, capacity and purpose of use. The smallest vessels hold only about 100 ml of brew, while the largest can hold up to half a litre of yerba mate. Some are made of wood, some of natural calabash, and others of ceramic or glass. A beginner mateist can get a little lost in all this. Want to know the best yerba mate cup to choose? Let's take a look at each of them together!

What are yerba mate cups made of?

Wooden mates

The most atmospheric and popular choice for yerba mate drinkers are the mates made of wood or calabash fruit. A wooden yerba mate cup gives the drinking of the brew a unique depth that cannot be faked. The wood produces an aromatic resin, and yerba mate brewed in a vessel made from it tastes completely different, taking on flavour and aromatic notes. The wooden mate cup is most often made from the intensely fragrant palo santo wood, less often from the very durable and robust algarrobo, lapacho or lemon wood. To reinforce the construction of a wooden mate, metal fittings are often added. The wooden mate gourd has its advantages and disadvantages:


  • when brewed in a wooden mate gourd, yerba mate tastes and smells different, acquires depth and a whole new dimension,
  • wooden cups are not the cheapest, but the price is matched by high quality and solid workmanship, the wood is very resistant to any damage,
  • the wooden mate gourd is relatively light and very comfortable in the hand.


  • wooden yerba mate cup is demanding. Firstly, before using it for the first time, it needs to be prepared so that it lasts as long as possible. This process is called curado and we have written more about it here. Secondly, it needs to be properly cared for. Wood is an organic material that can easily rot when exposed to moisture. Leaving yerba mate residue in a wooden container is not the best idea. At the same time, a vessel made of wood needs to be moistened regularly. If dried out too much, it can break,
  • wooden mate gourd gives up its flavour and aroma to the brew, but at the same time it also easily takes on the flavours and aromas of the liquids it contains. While it doesn't bother you at all if the palo santo gourd takes on the taste of your favourite yerba mate, it will be quite bad if the mate cup takes on the taste of washing up liquid. It is not advisable to rinse a wooden vessel with any kinds of detergents.

Mates made of calabash

Mate cup made from calabash fruit, like wooden ones, are quite demanding vessels. They are made from the dried, hollowed out and woody fruit of the calabash – gourd, which has a distinctive shape. Depending on the part of the fruit from which the vessel is made, it has a different shape and name, but more on that later. The calabash, like wood, is an organic material, so the vessels made from it have their advantages and disadvantages:


  • mate cups made from the calabash fruit are ecological – they do not litter the environment,
  • like wooden vessels, calabashes are robust and shatterproof,
  • similar to wooden mate cups, the calabash is an organic material, so it gives its flavour and aroma to mate tea, giving it a unique depth.


  • before first use, the calabash requires appropriate, rather laborious preparation,
  • under the influence of moisture, mould can quickly develop in a calabash mate cup,
  • like the wooden mate, the calabash is prone to breakage.
Ceramic calabashes for drinking yerba mate

Ceramic mate gourds

Ceramic mate gourds are practical, easy to use and very popular. Using this type of vessel is similar to using a regular mug for drinking coffee or tea. This material is resistant to high temperatures and does not affect the taste of yerba mate, which some people consider an advantage. What other advantages and disadvantages do ceramic mates have?


  • they are cheap and widely available in any yerba mate shop,
  • easy to use – they do not mould when wet and do not crack when heated, in addition they can be washed in the dishwasher without any worries, using detergents,
  • there is a huge choice of different designs and colours – ceramic calabash can be made in practically any style.


  • ceramic yerba mate gourds differs from an ordinary tea cup only in its shape. There is no longer as much magic in drinking the brew in such a vessel as there is in a mate made of palo santo or natural calabash,
  • although they do not break when exposed to hot water, as is the case with wooden mate cups, in most cases a ceramic calabash that falls to the floor ends up breaking.

Mate cups made of other materials

Popular and very practical to use are mate cups made of stainless steel. Their great advantage is that they retain the temperature of the drink (both hot and cold) for longer. At the same time, the temperature inside the vessel does not affect the outside, so it does not irritate the hands – it does not scald them when the brew in the mate gourd is hot and they do not freeze when there is an icy tereré in the vessel. Sometimes you can also find yerba mate cups made of glass, the so-called glassanto. The transparent glass walls of the glassanto allow you to look into the “inside” of the brew and admire the yerba mate leaves and sticks steaming in the warm water. The disadvantage of this type of mate cup is its fragility – the glass vessel is easy to break.

Shapes of yerba mate cups

Round mate gourds

The most common shape of a yerba mate cups is the characteristic, round "bauble" – bulging at the bottom and tapering towards the top. Vessels in this shape are made of ceramic, wood and calabash fruit – its bottom part. They are suitable for pretty much any type of mate tea – whether it is dusty Paraguayan mate or coarsely cut yerba mate green, free of twigs and dust. It can be troublesome to prepare only very finely ground yerba mate chimarrão in this type of mate cup.

Cuias for drinking yerba mate


Brazilians, who love to drink fresh, finely ground chimarrão, which is bright green in colour, prepare the brew in a distinctive large vessel with thick walls and a wide collar. Cuia, as this vessel is called, is made from the top of the calabash.


A characteristic feature of porongo vessels is that they are equipped with metal tripod. This type of vessel, like the cuia, is made from the top of the calabash and has quite a large capacity. They are also sometimes fitted with a wide collar. However, they differ from the cuia in the thickness of their walls – they are much thinner. People from Argentina and Uruguay most often drink yerba mate in porongo-type calabashes.


Guampas are made from cattle horns or hooves. The name guampa comes from the word wampa, which means “horn” in the Kechua language. They have a very interesting shape that stands out from other vessels – they are elongated and gently arched. Guampas are often fitted with a comfortable handle to make them easier to hold. They are also often metal-wrapped, which contributes to their durability. Guampas are particularly popular in Paraguay, where, due to the high temperatures and very hot, sultry climate, yerba mate is mainly drunk in an icy version – tereré. Only cold yerba mate can be drunk in a guampa made from a horn or hoof. Contact with hot water can make the mate tea taste bad, moreover, an unpleasant odour and aftertaste is likely to seep in. Nowadays, you can also buy guampas made of wood or ceramic.

Guampa for drinking yerba mate

What is the best mate gourd to choose for yerba mate?

What kind of mate gourd to choose? The best calabash for yerba mate is the one in which we are most comfortable to drink the brew. Yerba mate can be drunk in a regular mug if you feel comfortable doing so – this is an individual matter and is absolutely not a crime. However, in order to feel the real atmosphere of drinking yerba mate, experience the magical ritual of brewing and soak in the culture of South America, we recommend choosing a vessel made of natural material – wood or calabash fruit. Whatever you choose, drink to your health!

Source of information:

  1. Wikipedia: Mate, Mate (infusión), Mate (recipiente).