passycafe says, "I've been happily steeping my plebeian yerba mate tea bags until I read that I'm all wrong. Seems I need a gourd, a bombilla, and mate that is a gazillion times better than my boxed stuff. Am I truly not enjoying it & not deriving any of its benefits?"
"For those who don't know," says SouthOCHound, "the loose leaf yerba mate is packed into the mate gourd; almost equal part sugar is added; scalding hot water poured over the concoction; and the drinker drinks through the metal straw with a filter on the end. There is something disconcerting (at least to me) about having to filter while one is drinking. Something about it seems so, ahem, primitive."
"I myself, a gringo American married to an Argentine, am perfectly content and perfectly comfortable in my own skin drinking mate cocido," says SouthOCHound—mate cocido being the stuff you might find in a tea bag. "The cocido thing to me is more about convenience and not having to explain to the uninitiated that this contraption is not a water bong. Also, the loose leaf product looks to the untrained eye strikingly similar to another more infamous herb (which may explain why many think the gourd is a bong). So I can brew mate cocido from work and no one is the wiser. The Argentines, however, are not so impressed. And there is an element to mate-through-the-bombilla that has less to do with the strength of the brew and more with how it is enjoyed."