Julie and I got our gourd (itself called a mate, pronounced mah-teh) at the Feria de Mataderos on our recent trip to Buenos Aires. Thanks Lucas!
Lucas and Melanie kindly seasoned the gourd for us, which apparently you must do before using it for the first time.
A traditional social drink in Argentina, mate is shared with friends. One person, the server or cebador, prepares it and takes the first drink, through the bombilla, to ensure it’s good and of the right temperature. He or she then refills the gourd and passes it to the next person.
This person drains the gourd — the bombilla making a loud sucking noise — and returns the gourd to the cebador who refills it and passes it to the next person. The ritual proceeds around the circle in this way until the mate is ‘washed out’, normally after about ten refills, depending on the quality of the yerba.
Many thanks to Melanie Jarman for her excellent instructions.