I have finally been seduced by mate.
The conversion has taken a little while but I always knew it was coming. The communal drinking ritual and price a fraction of coffee or tea always made this inevitable.
Matte is a drink made from yerba and hot water (the use of hot water instead of boling is one of the crucial differences with tea). It gets its name from the vessel in which it is served, a spherical cup made from leather and/or wood with a stand or flat bottom to keep it upright. The cup would originally have been made from a small hollowed-out pumpkin; the pumpkin’s name ‘Matte.’ The cup is filled with yerba, the dried leaves. The bombilla (a metal straw) is then wriggled underneath the leaves. A spoonful of sugar or honey would then be added for those with a sweet tooth. The server fills the cup up to the top with hot water. As the first cup of matte tends to be quite bitter they will then drink this first cup before refilling it and passing it to the next person. The cup is then refilled again and again until the leaves lose their fizz (there are no bubbles on top). This can last upto a dozen or so times. Once you start drinking matte it is hard to resist another blast.
Travelling through Brazil (where matte is known as chimarron) and Argentina, I noticed a strong culture of matte drinkers. People would often go to the park with their matte or drink a round after getting up in the morning. This is nothing compared to Uruguay, where marriage to your matte cup is not out of the question. Wherever you look, people are holding their matte in one hand, thermos in the other, 24/7. If you threw a million pounds in 20 notes into the air, no-one would catch a single note. They would be too busy grasping onto their matte. For proof of this, I took a couple of pictures on the Ramblas in Montevideo where pretty much every single person has one: