Here is a post for mom, and all others who were confused as to why we are drinking out of gourds:
To start with, a quote from Wikipedia:
The infusion called maté is prepared by steeping dry leaves (and twigs) of yerba maté in hot water, rather than in boiling water like black tea. It is a slightly less potent stimulant than coffee and much gentler on the stomach. Drinking maté with friends from a shared hollow gourd (also called a mate in Spanish, or cabaça or cuia in Portuguese) with a metal straw (a bombilla in Spanish, bomba or canudo in Portuguese) is an extremely common social practice in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern Chile, eastern Bolivia and Southern Region, Brazil, and also Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
Here is a picture. The maté in this picture is set into metal as many are. You can go very simple, but many are ornate and could be displayed as art.
At the end of the metal straw is a filter so the yerba stays in the maté and not your mouth (this works most of the time).
Unlike other teas you do not strain the water before consumption. One fills the mate three quarters full with mate with the straw in the gourd. Then you fill the gourd with hot water (never boiling) until the yerba is saturated, but not over saturated. Let it sit for a minute and drink down a very bitter infusion. Then you are free fill and refill your gourd and drink as many times as you would like. One of my favorite things about maté is that it is a very communal practice. On Sundays in the market in San Telmo, people walk around with a thermos, a gourd, their straw and a yerba supply refilling from the thermos as they pass around the maté. I have no thermos and am so far confined to my flat while drinking my mate, but it is now an integral part of my breakfast routine. The taste is often described as a mix between green tea and coffee hence my excessive use of sugar when I began drinking it. Today I am proud to say I drank mate with no sugar!! Big steps being taken over here!! My new dream is to share a mate with real porteños in the streets of BsAs, but there is time for this. Another interesting thing I enjoy after maté is the pleasant aftertaste it leaves in your mouth.
My class is going really well and my practice lessons have been going well too. My practice lesson today was idioms with the advanced. It was a fun lesson to teach and I got to act out some of the idioms which I hope was as entertaining for them as it was for me. The lesson was my best so far. We are going out tonight to a friend’s party. Two of the guys in my class live together and are throwing a party for the whole class, so almost everyone I know in BsAs will be there! Around 1 am we will probably go to a bar, but I don't know if I can make it out till six am again!! Frisbee tomorrow, and then I might have some people over for brunch on Sunday for some good old American breakfast. We´ll see, and I will keep you posted!