15 years ago I was in Argentina and I bought a mate and a bombilla to drink yerba mate. I saw many people drinking "mate" in the street and I really liked the look of the mate (gourd) and bombilla (straw), but I never used them. My husband was also presented a set a few years back, time that we learned what to do with it!
Until a week ago I thought that Argentinians were the biggest consumers of mate, but apparently the Uruguayans drink more of it. The kids and I took a class (offered by our Spanish language school La Herradura), it isn't a drink that children usually drink because it is very bitter, but it has no caffeine, and they could try a sip. In Uruguay they say that a kid becomes an adult when he/she brew his/her first mate tea alone. But is is mainly a convivial drink: everybody "sucks" the tea from the same straw, and there is a bit of a etiquette to follow.
After the class I went straight away to buy some yerba to take home (it is well packed so I guess that they will allow it into NZ), and now I just need to find a good thermos for the hot water, so I will be able to offer you a mate. :-)
Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©