Complex, organic and quite rare — La Rubia Organica instantly shows that it is not going to be as vanilla as the most of the mass-produced yerba mates out there. It is not afraid to be rough with you, packing some seriously bold smoky tobaccoey flavors and huge amounts of energy. A wild but elegant beast, La Rubia Organica needs to be tamed to appreciate its beauty — an adventure that you might not want to go on daily, but always exciting to make you want more.
You can tell that La Rubia Organica is a Paraguayan yerba mate from the first whiff of it. Sweet and smoky, it has nothing short of a pungent and strong smell. Woodsy, oaky and papery, it reminds me of other Paraguayan yerba mates, like Kurupí Clásica and Pajarito Tradicional.
When I spend enough time enjoying the aroma of La Rubia Organica, bold smoky notes that hit the nose right from the get go start to fade away into the background, giving their way to more subtle and exquisite floral and spicy notes. Tobacco is coming through in the nose of La Rubia Organica quite beautifully, but don’t think of an ashy cigarette tobacco — I’m talking more of a pipe tobacco, specifically the sweet hay aroma of Virginia. Overall, I really enjoy the richness and evolution of the aroma of La Rubia Organica.
When it comes to the cut of La Rubia Organica, we are looking here at a typical Paraguayan cut that has a high dust content in addition to a fine to medium grinding of leaves. The amount of stems is also quite generous — La Rubia Organica is one of the most stem-heavy yerba mates that I have ever seen. They form a very significant portion of the cut and range from tiny little splinters to quite big and thick “logs”.
The huge amount of stems make this yerba mate look very pale, almost ivory, and quite similar to Selecta Tradicional, but upon closer looking I notice that the color of leaves ranges drastically from similarly pale to more vibrant green and even toasted brown, which should not be surprising, considering the smoky nature of La Rubia Organica.
There are two important things that I want to point out to make a hot mate from La Rubia Organica much more enjoyable.
First thing is the cut — it’s not hard and challenging per se, but it may cause some problems if you choose to use a spring bombilla or slotted bombilla due to the high powder content. In this case use stems to your advantage and shake the yerba vigorously upside down in the gourd before pouring the water — finer particles will end up at the top of the gourd when you’ll turn it back up, while stems will get at the bottom right where the filter of the bombilla will be, preventing it from clogging and helping with filtration.
The second important thing is the temperature of the water — La Rubia Organica is one of those picky yerbas that require precision but will reward you generously if you’ll use the right temperature. In my experience the best temperature to enjoy this hot mate is quite low — around 60°C / 140°F , which makes sense — La Rubia Organica is a Paraguayan yerba mate that was designed for tereré. Trying to go hotter, even as low as 70°C / 160°F , resulted in a mate that is too acidic and smoky to call it balanced and enjoyable.
Speaking of tereré from La Rubia Organica — the preparation here is trivial. No need to figure out the temperature — just make sure to get the coldest water possible and add some ice to your thermos to keep it cold.
One final thing to point out that is specific to La Rubia Organica — you may want to steep it a bit in the gourd before drinking. 20-30 seconds is enough to extract all the subtle flavors of this tereré.
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 said earlier, picking the right temperature totally pays off and you will be rewarded with a mate that is very distinct and unique. Instantly smoky but nowhere near being rough or harsh, La Rubia Organica goes down smooth and develops as nicely as a peaty Islay scotch. In the same way Islay is not as sweet as bourbon or rye, this mate is not as sweet as most of the Argentine mates, especially from Cooperativa Liebig.
Despite the smokiness, La Rubia Organica is never bitter and gives off that compost-ish green musty flavor inherent to organic yerba mates. It wears its USDA Organic badge rightfully so, and reminds me of Kraus Organica, that has a similar decomposing vibe to it (in a good way), despite being Argentine and non-smoked.
As with the nose of this mate, let it grow on you and the smokiness shifts to the background, unraveling oaky and spicy notes that do not linger for too long. Peppery, leathery and aromatic, again with that pleasant tobaccoey note, but this time it’s not Virginia but Perique, slightly lighter medium body of La Rubia Organica becomes smoother with every sip. Aficionados will enjoy the hell out of this mate, but novices may find it hard yet to appreciate those non-edible and complex flavors that La Rubia Organica has to offer.
But it is the cold-brewed mate that peaks my interest, because I have been constantly hearing that La Rubia Organica makes one of the best tereré out of all Paraguayan yerba mates. And wow, in my experience this is completely true! Pleasantly bitter, slightly smoky, tobaccoey and even tart, this tereré is a pure joy for a seasoned matero. Again, La Rubia Organica may not yet be the tereré for a first-time drinker, but if you are able to get past the initial bold earthiness, you will be pleasantly surprised to find a lot of floral and herbal notes that create a very interesting evolution of the taste.
I don’t pick up any woodsy and oaky notes that are usually prominent in Paraguayan tererés, but the amount of those bitter floral, almost hoppy notes makes me very impressed and impatient for the next sip of La Rubia Organica. Similarly to hot mate, this tereré is moderately spicy and peppery, and a nice and silky medium-bodied mouthfeel creates almost an oily and creamy drinking experience.
A beautifully complex taste of La Rubia Organica transforms into a long and pronounced aftertaste that allows you to enjoy and ponder this mate for quite some time after the sip. It is not a very drinkable mate, in a sense that you unconsciously want to take long pauses between refills to enjoy the fumes of the aftertaste. Smokiness is not as forward in the finish of La Rubia Organica, while a new flavor of a tart cherry pit appears that I was not noticing in the taste of this mate.
The aftertaste of a tereré is also long and prominent — the bitterness is still very much there and keeps lingering throughout the whole finish. I also start to notice some of the missing woodsy oaky notes that keep me savoring every sip of La Rubia Organica for longer than usual.
On average both hot mate and tereré lasted for solid and respectable 20 refills, which makes La Rubia Organica a moderate mate. Smoky and earthy flavors washed away and faded gradually, leaving just the ghosting of some floral herbal notes, and lavado itself was still nice to drink, albeit being almost tasteless, to finish the water that was still left in the thermos.
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.
The surge of energy that filled my whole body started to become apparent in the middle of my drinking session and grew to a point of being unpleasant. It actually reminded me of that typical buzz and increased heart rate that you get from too much coffee. La Rubia Organica feels like an extremely caffeinated yerba mate and is energizing in both hot mate and tereré forms, so I would recommend to drink it only in the first half of your day. Tereré, in addition to that, of course is very refreshing and is perfect for hot mornings or afternoons.
What are your thoughts on La Rubia Organica? Comment below!