Mate can actually have a wide variety of tastes just as tea can. Some mate can actually have a very harsh taste, while some has a smooth flavor that invigorates. Most of that difference comes from where the mate is grown. If it is grown of a plantation, it tends to have a more bitter strong taste, whereas rainforest mate is more smooth. That being said it is also an acquired taste that takes some time getting used to.
I will say that correctly brewing mate is a very difficult task. I would recommend that if you really want to understand the tastes that you get a gourd and bombilla and brew it as they do in Argentina.
If you want to brew it like most tea, then make sure that your water temperature is closer to 180 degrees and be careful not to overbrew, mate has tannins and caffeine like tea does.
Lastly, if there are any argentinians that you know or anyone who might know how to brew mate, you should talk to them, because they are more likely to know better ways to brew the mate. I learned from argentinians and that's why I like mate so much.
Anyway, good luck in drinking mate. If you're really up for it there are many things you can do for different tastes and mixtures. One of my favorites is to use sprite instead of water. You can also add any type of skin, like orange peels (make sure it is dry before you mix in with mate) or lemons, or really whatever you want.