Wild, feral and even barbarous — this mate feels like it belongs to the nature and countryside, far away from the safe city. Barbacua method of drying contributes to the strong smoky array of flavors, taking your mind to a wilderness, where life feels way more exciting. If you ever enjoyed sitting in front of the campfire in the middle of the forest you will love this mate, but new drinkers beware — La Merced Barbacuá may be too much for unprepared palate.
La Merced Barbacuá has very bright and striking nose — very strong aroma of dried plums, fragrant wood and a touch of smoke. The smell is sweet with noticeable notes of dry fruits that remind me of Taragüi Sin Palo. It is also, believe it or not, a bit salty smell, that makes nose of La Merced Barbacuá pretty unique and interesting.
This yerba mate gives us something to talk about when it comes to the cut — it is an unbalanced con palo yerba mate that is very low on powder. Stems are not too big and not too small. Leaves have an even grind and color, with relatively more brown and burnt ones — as it is obvious from the name of this yerba mate, it is produced using the barbacuá method of drying. This method should give yerba mate more bold and rich taste profile and distinctive smokiness, that is present in both smell and flavor.
Other interesting thing that I noticed about the cut of La Merced Barbacuá is unusually high amount of seeds — maybe it is somehow related to the season when this yerba was harvested. I haven’t had yerba mate with so many seeds before, so it is hard for me to point out how they affect the taste and duration. It would be interesting to compare it with other yerba mate that has seeds in its cut to find any distinctive similarities between them — if you had such yerba mate, please share it in the comments!
As I mentioned earlier, La Merced Barbacuá has a relatively low amount of powder, which makes preparation of this mate a bit harder compared to other con palo brands. Low powder content makes it more loose in the gourd, which presents more work for the cebador to maintain the mountain of yerba, again, reminding me Taragüi Sin Palo that also behaved the same way. Spoon bombilla or bomba will be more efficient than spring bombilla in this case, but other than that preparation of La Merced Barbacuá should be pretty effortless — the grind is coarse enough for any clogging issues to occur, no matter what bombilla you use.
As for the temperature, manufacturer recommends to use 70°C - 80°C / 160°F - 175°F water, which I find to be good, although a bit colder water — down to 60°C / 140°F — is also fine.
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 laser thermometer or a food thermometer .
Bold, earthy and smoky — La Merced Barbacuá fully justifies its name. The taste of this mate nicely matches the nose, so you can expect the same fragrant flavors — wood, slight sweetness and even a bit of that saltiness that I pointed out earlier. It is definitely not a mate for beginners — if this is your first mate all you would taste is smoke and bitterness, which are not subtle and will be overpowering for anyone but seasoned materos. Even when you get past the smokiness, you will find a wild untamed medium to full-bodied mate that will throw strong earthy flavors at you — think soil, clay and leather.
It’s hard to expect mild and short finish from such a strong mate — the aftertaste of La Merced Barbacuá is long, bitter and tobaccoey. In a sense it is not very “drinkable” mate, as I was taking long pauses between sips to let the finish to wear off and prepare my mouth for next few bitter gulps of La Merced Barbacuá.
This mate has a non-surprising moderate duration — it was very consistent every time, on average yielding in 20 to 25 refills, which is not as impressive as La Merced De Campo, but on par with most of Argentine yerba mate brands. It washes out gradually without abrupt drops, slowly becoming less strong and bitter, and more mild and sweet. Lavado is nice and pleasant, leaving a good overall impression on La Merced Barbacuá after completing the session.
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 sprout.
The energizing effect that La Merced Barbacuá had on me every time I was drinking it was as strong as the flavors of this mate. I would definitely not recommend to drink it in the evening — La Merced Barbacuá is certainly an invigorating morning mate that should wake you up no matter how sleepy you are.
What are your thoughts on La Merced Barbacuá? Comment below!