Though I’ve written about my love of yerba maté many times before, I haven’t yet addressed the traditional Argentiniad method of enjoying maté: the gourd. Drinking maté from a gourd is an overwhelming experience, one that combines the magic of caffeine with the feelings of fellowship derived from the group dynamic. I’ve only done it once before, when the kind folks from Guayakí sat with me and a few from my family, and passed the vessel around the circle. It was a great time, and though I’d already begun drinking maté, this experience embedded a love of the drink in my heart.
Passing the gourd begun with the gauchos, Argentinean cowboys, which gives the ritual’s history a sense of romance. The ritual itself is somewhat labor-intensive, with several steps that require a certain level of finesse. If you happen to lack this quality, don’t despair: Guayakí has provided instructions on their website, making the process relatively foolproof, though there is definitely an “art” to it. These directions are the ones I’ll be following today, since I’ve decided to try and recreate the maté magic in my home. I’m going to include my results from this experiment of sorts, so you can get a sense of what I’m feeling as the day wears on. If you’d like to read more about maté, check this out. Also, if any of you are so inclined to give the gourd a try, let me know how it goes for you.
One last thing: before any gourd is used, it must be cured. This is done to “season” the vessel, and to remove the inner skin. It takes a couple of days from start to finish, so it’s something best done ahead of time. It’s not that hard, though it’s also not that pleasant. However, it’s worth doing in order to enjoy this South American ritual, so give it a shot. I cured my gourd this past weekend, so I’m ready to go. Drinking from the gourd by myself feels like a big undertaking, so I’m going to keep notes of how I feel throughout the day. Here goes!
9:30 a.m.: Today’s the day I try using my gourd. After all, I put the effort into curing the gourd over the weekend, so why shouldn’t I enjoy the fruits of my efforts? After following Guayakí’s packing and bombilla insertion directions, I’m ready to begin. I’m a little nervous about drinking several gourds full by myself, since the tradition is to share it, but I’m going to go for it. Bombillas away.
10:00 a.m.: The official start of GourdFest 2007. Okay, it can hardly be called a “fest” when I’m the only one participating in the festivities, but I’m excited. The gourd is packed, the water’s boiling on the stove, and as I pour the initial round of cold water into the gourd, I’m full of happy anticipation.
10:10 a.m.: Wow. Not what I expected. I’m guessing that it’s because I’ve never used the gourd before, but the first couple of gourdfulls are bitter, with a yucky aftertaste. This is definitely not what I remember from my last gourd experience.
10:30 a.m.: I’m now about three or four bowls into my experiment, and the bitter taste is gone. I’m sure now that it was just a breaking-in-the-gourd thing, because now the flavor is how I remembered it: a bit like hay, but ultimately fulfilling.
10:45 a.m.: This is delicious. I can’t stop! I know I’ll be hurting later, but pour after pour of hot water into the gourd is bringing me so much satisfaction.
11:30 a.m.: Oh. My. Goodness. I think I’m having a seizure. Or a heart attack. I can’t move, for fear of exploding. Note to self: Next time you try the gourd, SHARE IT WITH OTHERS.
12:15 p.m.: I decide to get up and walk around for a while, and it’s helping quite a bit. I no longer feel like I’m going to die, and now I just feel like I’m flying. The rush isn’t accompanied by the usual jitters I feel when I’ve overdosed on coffee. Maté makes me feel smart, and right now I could swear I’m a genius.
1:10 p.m.: After returning to work at my desk, I stand up too quickly, having forgotten about my maté-enhanced state. Whoops. I get a monster head rush, and I lean against the door jamb for support. Another note to self: Next time, stand up s-l-o-w-l-y.
2:25 p.m.: I think the caffeine (or tea-eine, or whatever it is) settling a bit in my system, because I’m starting to feel much better. Much, much better. This must be the reason that people refer to preparing the mate gourd as “packing the bowl.” Coincidence? I think not.
3:00 p.m.: I just stood up again, and when I started walking around I felt like I was twenty feet tall. I think I like this.
4:30 p.m.: I’m starting to feel normal again, but there’s still no “crash.” If I had tried a stunt like this with coffee, I’d already be in a caffeine crash-induced coma. Mate is so gentle, I love it!
6:15 p.m.: I’m definitely back to normal, or at least closer to it. My feet feel like they’re touching the ground again, but my head still feels clear.
At the end of this mate-fueled day, I was able to fall asleep around midnight without any tossing or turning. I think if I’d tried drinking from the gourd by myself later in the day, it may have affected my sleep, but as it was I had no trouble. Still, I’d definitely recommend sharing your mate gourd experience with others. It’s kind of overwhelming to have it by yourself, and it’s not as much fun. Passing the gourd around a circle is a kind of bonding experience, and besides that it’s a surefire way to keep yourself from drinking too much at once. I’ve never been very good at moderation, but when it comes to my gourd, I think I’ll strive to improve in that area.
Also, I will say one more thing about my gourd experience: mate sure does keep you regular. Aaaaaand I’m out.