Mate is a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink, particularly in Argentina (where it is defined by law as the “national infusion”), Uruguay, Paraguay and Southern Brazil, and to a lesser degree in southern Chile, the Bolivian Chaco, Syria and Lebanon. If you ask a Uruguayan what is their national drink, they would say Mate. (taken from Wikipedia).
What does Marijuana have to do with Mate? Technically speaking, nothing really…yet…
Both words begin with “M”
Both are similar in appearance unless you happen to be a real connoisseur of one or the other or both.
Both are legal in Uruguay.
Both are consumed daily.
Both are consumed in public.
Both are shared amongst its users.
Both are consumed by users of all ages.
Both are bought in stores.
Both are grown in Uruguay.
Both can be ingested through water with use of a special device.
Both are used in social settings primarily.
Both can be used on work breaks without any repercussions legally speaking.
Both are green.
Both are passed around by a facilitator or preparer.
Both share equal opportunity of use in light of your socioeconomic status.
I believe that is more than sufficient for comparison. For sure, you could make other implications between the two. You prepare a mate by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water. Mate is served through a metal straw (nickel silver or stainless steel combination) that is known as a bombilla (pronounced bomb-bee-ja) in Uruguay. The traditional mate is a squash gourd that is hollowed out and then decorated on the outside with leather and other types of material. Modern mates can be made of ceramic and other such materials so you don’t have to mess with the gourd. Inside the mate gourd, you fill it with the yerba almost to the top and then there is almost a scientific process (according to connoisseurs) in filling the mate with hot water and placing the metal straw just right. You have a lot of yerba in the mate and little water. You suck the hot water through the straw that has a sieve on the end at the bottom of the mate so you don’t suck up all the yerba into the straw.
Drinking mate is a sociocultural activity. When there is a group of 2 or more people, you will normally find one or more mates depending upon the size of the group. The cebador (preparer) will prepare the mate and then take the first drink. This is not rude because the cebador is making sure that the water is not too hot so that it would burn a person’s mouth. In that sense, they are watching out for the person to whom they will pass the mate. Then the cebador will refill the mate with hot water from a thermos and then pass it. That person drinks all the hot water until a loud sucking sound is made (this is not rude…a little boy or girl from the USA would love this part of the tradition). This means you need to add more water. The person hands the mate back to the preparer who refills it and then passes it to the next person who wants some. YES, they all drink out of the same straw. They all share their germs (uncomfortable for a typical North American). This is the way you do it and there are no exceptions to the rule. If you want to drink mate with friends, you must share the saliva. The preparer of the mate is the one who determines who will drink after him/her. If you run into a friend-drinking mate by him or herself then they may or may not offer you some. You can politely choose to refuse if you wish. The other person will not be offended. If they offer it to you, it is an honor because they consider you a close enough friend to even offer it. I have not included all the nuances of drinking mate with friends, but you get the idea.
Personally, Denise and I are not big into drinking yerba mate (at least not yet). We like our coffee like many Americans. Uruguayans like coffee also, but drinking mate together is much more cultural than drinking coffee together. As a foreigner, if I would drink mate with others then they would be very impressed and say I am becoming more Uruguayan. Just like you in the U.S. there are people who do not drink coffee, you will find Uruguayans who don’t drink yerba mate either. An additional little fact, many Uruguayans and Argentinians drink lots of tea due to the English influence over the centuries. You can also find yerba mate in the tea bag form though it is much more milder than drinking it from a mate.
Concerning marijuana, don’t bother with it. A much more harmful habit and I don’t care if the consumer speaks to the contrary. That is all I will say about that.