View Full Version : Wild yerba mate / cassina mead

05-17-2014, 01:19 PM
A few days ago, I started a batch of cassina mead. Cassina is a tea made from yaupon holly, which is a wild plant here in the Southeastern United States that's closely related to Ilex paraguariensis, the South American holly that produces yerba mate. The two plants aren't identical, but we can talk about 'em pretty much interchangeably here. Both contain caffeine, and both have sort of a roasted grassy flavor once prepared for use. So I'm hoping for tips from anybody who's made yerba mate mead—or any sort of tea mead, really, although cassina is a lot lower in tannins than black or green teas, which makes some difference.

For my first one-gallon test batch, I made a tea using 5 tbsp. ground holly leaf and 3 quarts water. I would have used more yaupon if I'd had it. Then I strained the tea and added 1 quart honey. Now I'm vigorously stirring the mixture a few times each day to help wild yeasts take hold. (That method, which I took from Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation, worked beautifully for my recent batch of wild strawberry mead. Granted, those strawberries probably brought some yeasts to the mix, but I have faith that I'll be able to get this to ferment within a week or so.)

My issue is that, pre-ferment, I really can't taste the cassina tea at all. The flavor will probably come through better when some of the sugars have fermented out, but I'm also worried that some of that cassina flavor will ferment out as well. I just came into a few big carboys and want to do a serious batch over the next couple of weeks, so I'm trying to figure out the best way to ensure maximum cassina flavor.

Should I leave the ground leaves in the tea-and-honey mix for the week or two of primary fermentation? Because cassina doesn't contain as many tannins as black tea, that's less likely to make the final product undrinkable. Maybe the only way to find out is to make another test batch. Or should I add another infusion of leaves to the secondary? If so, any guidance on how many? I'm not using tea bags, so I'll have to measure by volume or by weight.

Any thoughts, or recipes for past yerba mate meads, will be very much appreciated.