Mate Among Mates

Ever seen a group of Brazilians pass around a funny-looking drink with a metal straw? Well, that’s mate. And it’s a traditional activity that builds bonds and completes social gatherings.

As an expat here, you’ve probably gone about trying out several Chinese teas, but have you ever wondered what those interesting-looking drinks that many a Brazilian seems to sip on are? Yes, that too, is a tea distinct to south Brazil and no Brazilian household exists without “Mate” or “Çhimarrao” as it is referred to. Most households indulge in the beverage twice a day, typically morning and late afternoon and no social gathering is complete in the Brazilian community without sharing mate.

Mr Amaral, a Brazilian resident of Dongguan mentioned “It’s such a traditional tea, and it is most important to keeping our tradition alive while passing it on to our children. Having this tea means a lot to us as it reminds us of our families, ancestors, and our real traditions. The taste is so much better when we drink with family and friends and that is the way it should be.”

Most households indulge in the beverage twice a day, typically morning and late afternoon and no social gathering is complete in the Brazilian community without sharing mate.

To explore further, I met with two lovely ladies, Angelica Colombo and Marina Moschem da Silva, who were more than happy to share more about the Brazilian tea which is more of a traditional practice than just a tea product in itself; and they demonstrated exactly how it’s made correctly. It was positively surprising to hear that there is even a festival called “Chimarrao Festival” that takes place in the southern city of Venancio once in every two years.

Mate or Chimarrao is traditionally drunk from a “Cuia” which is made from dried calabash gourd native of Rio Grande do Sul, and usually with a special straw called “Bomba.” Usually friends share the same Cuia and bomba, adding to the feeling of interactivity and sharing among friends and family.

There are several methods of making the hot beverage, but the most popular one needs boiled water which is made to sit for a while. You can use Yerba-mate leaves (which are available in Dongguan from Jays Deli or Taobao) but if you happen to have a Brazilian friend, when they visit their homeland, ask them if they can bring you back a pack (they should know the recommended brands) if possible and while they’re at it a Cuia and bomba would be very helpful.


  • Once your water has boiled, let it sit for a few minutes so it cools a little. The recommended temperature is 60 to 70 degrees Celsius.
  • Meanwhile, fill your cup to about the halfway mark with the Yerba-mate leaves. Tilt the cup and hold your hands to accumulate some leaves on the brim of the cup. Once done, fill the cup with hot water.
  • Let the tea leaves seep, insert the bomba and cover the opening with your thumb; twist the filter a couple of times, and then you are ready to enjoy your cup of mate. For first timers, it is usually an acquired taste; it has a grassy sensation to it.

Other permutations of making the mate includes one way whereby the first step is to place the leaves in a heap on top of the cup, leaving a small hole in the middle for the water which is achieved by keeping the metal straw or bomba in the middle and filling around it. Once done, fill the cup with water through the hole.

Additionally, you can choose to season your tea on top with cumin seeds and cinnamon powder among many other topping options. The traditional cup comes in various colors, but unfortunately not yet available here for purchase. Alternatively, you can use a normal mug for making the mate which may not be the same, but perhaps you can try to experience the taste.

So come on, get together with your friends and try a shared cup of mate, and see what all the fuss is about!

Vamos, junte-se com seus amigos e tente um copo compartilhado de mate!