Last updated: August 12, 2021

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Today we are going to talk about the gourd, a container used to prepare and drink chimarrão, mate tea and tererê, three very popular drinks, especially in southern Brazil.

For Southerners and in other South American countries - mainly Uruguay and Argentina - chimarrão is much more than just a drink, it is a cultural habit passed on from generation to generation. Sharing a gourd is directly linked to feelings of trust, collectivity and unity.

As there are several models of gourd available in the market, we recommend that you take into consideration some characteristics of each model such as shape, size, thickness and material.




The most important facts

  • Before choosing a gourd for drinking mate, think about the number of people who will use it, because there are models in three sizes: small, for individual use, medium, for couples and large, for groups.
  • There are models with or without support base. This piece, which can be a tripod or a leather base, can accompany the gourd or be purchased separately.
  • To have a complete mate tea kit, besides the mate tea, you will need to buy a gourd and a pump. The gourd serves as a container and the pump as a straw with filter, to suck only the drink and not the mate grains.

The Best Gourd: Our Picks

Buying Guide

Making chimarrão is almost a ritual for people from the south, so much so that it's a tradition among family and friends to have a round of conversation and prepare the drink to be consumed during the meeting. That's why it is so important to choose a good gourd, because it is in this container that the drink is prepared and consumed.

Imagem de uma cuia com chimarrão, chaleira com água e erva.

Chimarrão is a traditional drink in the south region of Brazil. (Source: ferumov / 123RF)

What is a gourd and where to use it?

The gourd is the container used to prepare and consume chimarrão, mate tea or tererê. This utensil can be made of various types of materials, have different sizes and shapes.

How is a gourd made?

The traditional gourd is made of porongo, a fruit that is harvested in January when it is ripe and can be scraped off manually or with a steel brush. It must dry evenly and homogeneously before being processed.

If it goes beyond this point, it may shrink in size. The porongo stays in the yard where air circulates, so that it can dry without cracking or losing its characteristic smell.

Imagem de dois porongos em árvore.

The traditional gaucho gourd is made of porongo, a fruit that is harvested in the month of January. (Source: manfredrichter/ Pixabay)

Then a hole is drilled in the centre of the fruit, the soft pomace is removed until it is completely extracted and only the hard part of the gourd remains. After that polishing wax is applied to the gourd and it is spread evenly by a rotary motor.

See how this process is done:

How to cure the gourd?

It is necessary to do a preparation process before using the gourd. The first step is to fill it with water and wood ashes from a fireplace or cooker. This first process eliminates bacteria, fungus, mould and hardens the hull.

This mixture should be topped up whenever it is absorbed by the porongo, until the solution has been in contact with the gourd for about 24 hours. After that, it should be washed with running water and dried in the shade and wind for 72 hours.

In the last stage, two to three spoonfuls of yerba mate and hot water should be added to tan the gourd. This process prevents it from cracking or splitting. Then let it dry for another 48 hours and repeat the process two or three times.

The process for making a well cured gourd should last 12 to 15 days and it should not be exposed to the sun, it should never be dropped and whenever it is washed it should be dried with a cotton cloth.

There are other ways to cure the gourd, check out the video below:

How to preserve your gourd?

The gourd should be properly stored, otherwise it can alter or even sour the taste of the mate. It should never be used every day, always every other day, so that it can dry completely.

To dry the gourd it is important to place it in the shade in a well ventilated place, never with the mouth down, so as not to create mould and mildew.

How is a chimarrão prepared?

The preparation of chimarrão is taken very seriously in the south of the country. People gather in a circle and the mateador (who prepares the drink) is the first to drink as a sign of politeness (the first sip is very bitter).

The person who keeps the thermos or kettle usually fills the gourd and passes it to someone else, starting the sharing of the drink. The person who passes the gourd also tells the others to "make the gourd rumble", in other words, to drink all the infusion.

Ideally, the chimarrão water should be hot, never boiling, so as not to change the taste of the herb. After drinking the mate, the person should fill the gourd again and pass it to another person, always with the right hand (passing with the left hand is a sign of rudeness).

The more people drink the chimarrão and exchange the water, the better it gets.

Check now a table with the main advantages and disadvantages of the porongo gourd:

Advantages
  • The flavor of the chimarrão prepared in a porongo gourd is unparalleled
  • The gourd made of thick porongo retains the heat of the water for longer
  • When well cared for, the gourd lasts a long time
Disadvantages
  • It requires a long preparation before using the gourd
  • Because it is porous, the gourd absorbs a lot of moisture and this can cause bacteria proliferation
  • The porongo gourd should be used in an alternating manner: every other day

Types of gourd: which one to choose?

The gourds may differ in size (small, medium or large), in shape (tapered or round) and even in material, although most are made of porongo.

There are two types of gourd: the Uruguayan and the Gaucho. The Uruguayan gourd is widely used in Uruguay (hence the name) and Argentina, while the gaucho is typically Brazilian.

Uruguayan Gourd

There are three types of Uruguayan gourds: coquinho, gajeta and torpedo. The cuia coquinho is very popular among young people, because it is more stylised than the other models. It is also used by country gauchos. The size of the mouthpiece varies according to the region.

The gourd torpedo is not very different from the coquinho, but it does not need support, as it has a square shape and can be supported without it falling and breaking. Aesthetically speaking, it is a little inferior.

The gourd gajeta is made of thick porongo and is ideal for those who drink chimarrão alone. Because it is short, this gourd allows you to drink before the water gets cold. This model does not need a support and is very easy to handle.

Gaucha Gourd

The gourd gaucha is the ideal model for those who want to share chimarrão with friends, because the big difference with this model is its size, which is bigger than the other types of cuias.

The gaucha can be sophisticated and personalized, with a refined finish or in a rustic and classic style. For lovers of mate the gourd is almost an extension of a person's personality.

Another drink that is also prepared in a gourd, made with mate tea and is popular in the south of Brazil is the tererê. But, these drinks have some differences, the main one is the temperature, while chimarrão is hot, tererê is cold.

In addition, chimarrão is served neat and tererê is combined with other ingredients, from other herbs such as mint and lemongrass, fruits like lemon and even juice. These ingredients are added to make the taste less bitter.

But the main difference between the drinks is the gourd used in their preparation. While in chimarrão a porongo (or other material) gourd is used, the tererê gourd is made from a bull horn.

We list the main differences and similarities between the chimarrão and tererê gourds in the table below:

Cuia de chimarrão Cuia de tererê (guampa)
Cuia base Porongo (fruit) Ox horn
Format Cylindrical or rounded cylindrical
The drink Hot and less bitter Cold and very bitter

How much does it cost?

You will spend at least R$ 20 to buy a traditional gourd, made of porongo, but the pump will need to be purchased separately. There are excellent quality models for between R$30 and R$80 and more expensive models for almost 200.

Purchase criteria: Factors to compare between different models of Cuia

When preparing chimarrão you should buy yerba mate, a kettle or thermos (if drinking in a group), a pump that serves as a straw and cools the tea and a gourd. Pay attention to the following details when choosing the gourd:

  • Item Material
  • Format
  • Size
  • Thickness

We will explain each of these items, that way you are not left with any doubt and choose the right gourd to prepare your mate.

The material of the gourd

Besides the traditional porongo, the gourd can be made of other materials such as baked clay, porcelain, glass, plastic and wood, but none of these materials can make your chimarrão taste as good as the porongo.

However, some people replace the traditional gourd with other materials such as ceramic, as the porong is porous, absorbs a lot of moisture and this can stimulate the growth of bacteria.

Shape

The shape of the gourd is usually cylindrical and tapered, so that the pump can filter the water without pulling out the herb, but some also have a different shape, rounder and smaller.

See what a cuia in coquinho style looks like:

Size

Take into consideration the number of people who will use the gourd to drink the chimarrão, there are models of small size (to matear alone), medium (for the use of two or three people) and the large gourd (for matearrão wheels).

Thickness

The thickness of the gourd is closely related to how long the water will remain hot, because the thicker the porong is, the better it will hold the heat of the drink.

The thick or sweet porong is the preferred type of fruit for mateadores, because it does not alter the taste of chimarrão, ensures that the yerba mate does not mix in the water quickly and does not change the water temperature.

(Source of the highlighted image: DanielCapelani / Pixabay)

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