Editors note you should first add cold water and leave it 2-3mins to swell the mate. This prevents the pipe getting blocked and also stops you getting boiling tea burns! You add boiling water after that and leave again 2-3 mins.
How to Prepare Mate Video
It wasn't until returning to London after my trip to Buenos Aires that I got my Gourd out (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gourd). This is part of a plant and has a ton of uses outside the Occidental world.
I filled it 3/4 of the way with Yerba Mate, the main ingredient which I hope and am sure I can find in London. Then add almost but not boiling water. For your first sip be careful of the hot water through the metal bombilla and prepare for the strong taste initially.
This is why for a westerner I first recommend filling the gourd half full. Also if you do that there is more room for water and things are just easier. If you get hard core later you can just go up to 3/4 full.
It is supposed to give you energy and its quickly acquired taste (in my case). But it has to be said that most people don't like it. You will see the young and old alike with their MATE in the streets. Its a thing to share and is a social thing. A great custom I feel and I wish I had gotten into it while I was there, well maybe if I return. I'm sure I will.