There is something about yerba mates like Colon Tradicional that make me appreciate this drink more and more. At first glance, it is one of those popular staple Paraguayan yerba mates like Pajarito, Kurupí or Selecta that will not offer anything special, but as soon as you drink it for the first time you realize how it’s simultaneously similar to those other Paraguayan yerbas, and so different and authentic in its own way. The smell and taste of Colon Tradicional are unarguably unique and at the same time lie within the expected Paraguayan flavor profile. Great both as tereré and hot mate, Colon Tradicional will definitely satisfy seasoned materos, especially those who enjoy yerba mate from this country, by bringing something new to the table. I wholeheartedly do not recommend you to skip this one.
Opening up a bag of Colon Tradicional, I am greeted with a very fragrant and delicious aroma. It’s earthy, dry fruity, with notes of prunes and raisins, and some spices, like nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. I don’t smell any smoky notes that are usually present in Paraguayan yerba mates in the nose of Colon Tradicional — in fact, it smells like a quality Argentine yerba mate to me, which made me really intrigued and excited about its taste when I first opened a bag of Colon Tradicional. Overall, it has a very sweet, candy-like and pleasant aroma that arguably rivals the likes of Playadito Con Palo and Liebig Original.
When I stopped sniffing on Colon Tradicional and actually got a look at its cut, I finally saw that it really is a Paraguayan yerba mate. The cut is on a dustier side, with a generous amount of powder, just as they like it in this country, which makes this yerba mate pleasantly fluffy and airy. Leaves are ground to a small to medium size, with an occasional coarse leaf here and there. Stems are present but not abundant, with their size comparable to that of a leaf. On their website, Colon provides a more detailed and precise ratio, clarifying that Colon Tradicional contains at least 24% of coarse leaves, not more than 12% of fine leaves and maximum of 11% powder content, which to me corresponds to what I observe looking at the cut of this yerba mate.
As an aged yerba mate, Colon Tradicional looks correspondingly desaturated, but the colors of the cut are all over the place, ranging from bleak and pale yellowy to a darker mossy green. Toasted brown inclusions are also not rare, which to me indicates a standard manufacturing method that involves scorching yerba mate with a flame to quickly dehydrate the leaves. Overall, the cut of Colon Tradicional looks tastefully unkempt, as you would expect from an average Paraguayan yerba mate.
Dustier and finer cut of Colon Tradicional imposes certain requirements to the preparation of this yerba mate. Building and maintaining a mountain of yerba is more important for Colon Tradicional, and I found myself molding it more frequently to prevent clogging of my bombilla. Speaking of bombilla — it is best to equip yourself with a spoon bombilla for this mate, as it will help with both filtration and maintenance of mountain. Second-best choice would be a flat slotted bombilla which is as good at molding the mountain as the spoon bombilla, but requires a higher skill of a cebador to prevent it from clogging due to a smaller amount if filtration slots.
When it comes to water for hot mate, there is an interesting compromise you have to be aware about. Water that is a bit on a colder side, around 60°C to 65°C / 140°F to 150°F , will result in a mate that has the most subtlety of flavors. The higher temperature you use, the more you lose those subtle flavors, but surprisingly, you get more durable mate instead. Personally, I will take subtle flavors over long durability any day of the week, therefore I prefer to enjoy Colon Tradicional on a colder side of hot water spectrum, but it’s great that this yerba mate gives you the option of increased number of refills if that is your priority.
Preparing tereré from Colon Tradicional is as simple as it can be — just make sure to get the coldest water possible and add a couple of ice cubes to your thermos to ensure it stays cold. Just keep in mind the fine cut of this yerba mate and do some extra molding of the mountain if you start to notice that it becomes harder to sip.
Most convenient way to get ideal water temperature is to use an electric kettle or a stovetop kettle with temperature control. If you prefer traditional kettle you can use a infrared thermometer or a food thermometer .
As I mentioned earlier, I did not find any smokiness in the nose of Colon Tradicional. Because of that, the first few sips of this mate took me by a complete surprise — smoky, bitter, ashy, leathery and tobaccoey — Colon Tradicional tasted completely different to its smell. Luckily, if you decided to follow my recommendation and go with 60°C - 65°C / 140°F - 150°F water, the bold strong and almost inedible flavors quickly give way to more subtle, light and tasty notes. Dry fruits start to break through the initial smokiness, this time with hints of dry apricots instead of prunes and raisins. The ashy bitterness all of a sudden turns into dark chocolate. Each subsequent sip becomes more and more sweet and less bitter, revealing even more delicate notes, such as milk chocolate, black tea, and even some floral notes — rose and jasmine. Subtler notes do not mean lighter body though, as this mate manages to boast a solid mouthfeel that is almost syrupy, but still manages to keep itself somewhere in the middle without becoming too thick. Colon Tradicional plays with different flavor facets at such ease, so nonchalantly, as a talented artist who is not forcing and pushing but simply expresses himself.
Tereré from Colon Tradicional is absolutely delicious. At first, I get a lot of bold smokiness, which quickly fades with subsequent refills and creates a room for more subtle and gentle flavor notes, similarly to a hot mate. With cold water though, I get lots of woodsy notes, like cedar, oak and applewood. This tereré is also pleasantly spicy, with notes of cardamom and a touch of nutmeg. The bitterness here is noticeable but pleasant, giving a dark chocolate and even coffee vibe. With more and more refills I stared to feel a deja vu, as dark chocolate evolved into a softer and sweeter milk chocolate about halfway into drinking tereré from Colon Tradicional. In the second half of the tereré session, Colon Tradicional also starts to exhibit nutty notes, mainly hazelnuts. Abundant smoke and wood completely fade away towards the end of the session, creating a very delicious, pleasant and unique for a tereré nutty-chocolatey and spicy experience.
Despite the kaleidoscope of flavors, the aftertaste of Colon Tradicional is more mild, simple and short. And honestly, I like that about this mate — the taste of Colon Tradicional keeps me so captivated that having a long and flavorful finish would’ve been too overwhelming and would make me less eager to go for another sip. In that sense, this mate is very drinkable — yes, a single sip unravels a ton of well-matched flavors for you to ponder, but they do not pull you away from reality so far that you have to take a huge break between sips. I was never feeling lost in my mind while drinking Colon Tradicional and enjoyed the myriad of its flavors at a relatively fast cadence.
Not much to say here about tereré, other than the aftertaste of Colon Tradicional is a bit tart. Other than that, the flavor notes that I get in the finish of this tereré are pretty much the same as in the taste — don’t expect any new layers of complexity here. The aftertaste of Colon Tradicional is also pretty short, which to me is a desirable trait, as it makes this tereré more drinkable and allows me to chug it really fast if I’m super thirsty on a hot summer day.
As I mentioned earlier, the main thing that the temperature of water will change in Colon Tradicional, besides the flavor profile, is the durability of this mate. With 60°C to 65°C / 140°F to 150°F water I was getting about 15 to 18 refills on average, which is verging on being short but is still ultimately a moderate durability. 70°C to 75°C / 160°F to 165°F water will get you around 20 refills, and with hotter water ( 80°C / 175°F and higher) you can expect an impressive 23 to 25 refills on average, which in turn already pushes the long durability category. Overall on average Colon Tradicional is a safe and solid moderate mate, that will not end abruptly with a gradual and smooth lavado, and displays a remarkable evolution throughout the duration of drinking, as I described in the taste section before.
The longevity of tereré from Colon Tradicional was pretty consistent — I was able to get around 18 refills each time I was drinking it with ice-cold water. The evolution of taste, that I mentioned earlier, makes this tereré really fun and interesting, with more bold, smoky and bitter notes in the first half of the session, to more mild, smooth and milky flavors in the latter half. Transition to lavado was pretty smooth, and you can definitely drink Colon Tradicional for a few refills after it becomes washed out.
The last thing you want while drinking mate is to constantly re-heat your water or add more ice to it. No matter if it's hot mate or cold tereré, use a vacuum bottle or a very popular in South America mate thermos with spout.
I really enjoyed drinking hot Colon Tradicional in the morning where I had enough sleep but still needed some mental boost for creative work. And this, in my opinion is the perfect use-case for this mate — don’t expect that it will magically wake you up after a sleepless night. This also makes Colon Tradicional safe to consume in the second half of the day and even in the evening without being afraid to stay too caffeinated.
Tereré was as neutral as hot mate in terms of its energizing effect, and, as you would expect from a cold-brewed yerba mate, was pretty refreshing and revitalizing. I also experienced mental clarity and increased productivity with tereré from Colon Tradicional, and as any yerba mate it comes with countless health benefits.
What are your thoughts on Colon Tradicional? Comment below!