I was introduced to Yerba Maté over the weekend. I was invited to a 4-day event where the herb is prominently featured.
The herb is used to prepare an infusion called maté by steeping dry leaves (and twigs) of yerba maté in hot water, rather than in boiling water. Drinking maté with friends from a shared hollow gourd with a metal straw is a common social practice in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru and Chile. It has also been cultivated in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
I found the brew to be paradoxically stimulating and relaxing. It is not at all intoxicating, though there is a small caffeine kick. It is said to be quite medicinal and healthful. The taste is quite herbal and reminded me of Chinese gunpowder tea. In fact, I enjoyed the experience so much that I ordered a kilo from Amazon. (I get no compensation from Amazon - just thought you'd appreciate a link)