This may be the most frequently drunk beverage in South America. Ernesto Chè Guevara frequently mentions it, in his book The Motorcycle Diaries. Almost every day the main concerns of Little Chè and Big Chè would be is La Ponderosa II still working, is there somewhere to sleep that night and is there enough Maté to keep them going.
The spelling of Maté with an accent is to ensure that you don't mispronounce it as the English word for friend, mate. In Portuguese or Spanish, it would never have the accent as spelt with the accent the word translates as ‘I killed’. Maté is from a native Quechua word ‘mati’ meaning a container for a drink or specifically referring to a gourd. The Spanish word ‘hierba’ variant spellings means herb, thus Yerba Maté originally translated as ‘gourd herb’.
Maté is an infusion of young shoots and new leaves of a South American holly, Ilex paraguayensis. Maté has more caffeine than either tea or coffee. Drinking Maté is quite a social event with many people sharing a gourd of leaves steeped in hot, not boiling water, through a straw called a ‘bombilla’, often elaborate and if possible, made of silver.
It goes without saying that if you're pregnant (or are under the doc for anything) caution should be exercised with herbal decoctions.