How tereré got to Brazil
I am from the south of Brazil, from the city of Maringá, in the state of Paraná, which is more or less 420km from Paraguay, which, for tereré, is where everything started. In the Paraguayan war, the soldiers already had the custom of taking Yerba Mate, but only consuming it hot. In order not to alarm their enemies of their whereabouts, they couldn’t light fires in order to heat their water to drink their mate, so they used the same water, but cold, which is where the tradition of tereré comes from. After the war, it quickly spread all over Paraguay, as well as the Brazilian states bordering Paraná, especially Mato Grosso do Sul. The states of Mato Grosso, and some parts of the state of São Paulo, although they don’t have a border, also adopted the custom of drinking tereré. Nowadays, we drink tereré with a lot of ice, and the type of Yerba Mate which is most common for preparation, aside from the traditional version without anything added, are ones with mint, hortelã, boldo, lemon and burrito.
Meet Brazil’s version of hot mate, Chimarrão
To drink tereré, we use a guampa (a drinking vessel made out of horn), bombilla and thermos filled with lots of ice. In Paraguay, when it’s cold, they drink hot mate, which they call, “mate.” But they actually don’t change anything beyond the temperature of the water; the loose-leaf herb and everything else is the same. When it’s hot out, they take tereré.
In Brazil, it’s a little different. Tereré is the iced version of Yerba Mate, and when it’s hot, we call it Chimarrão, which has a very particular and more complicated way of being prepared. The main reason for all of this is that the loose-leaf herb used in Chimarrão, is ground up much finer than normal loose-leaves used for tereré or hot mate consumed in other countries. This finely ground herb is more commonly consumed in the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. Brazilian Yerba Mate, known as “Erva Mate,” is greener, lighter, less-aged (it’s not “parked” as Paraguayans call it, which give the mate a darker color and more bitter taste) than that of Paraguay, Argentina or Uruguay. Those who like something stronger will prefer Paraguayan mate, and those who prefer something lighter, fresher and easy to drink will like Brazilian Erva Mate. Brazil is by far the largest producer of Erva Mate in the world and the largest domestic producer is the state of Paraná.
The beautiful culture of Yerba Mate
I started drinking tereré at 11 or 12 years old (I’m currently 26). And, over time, I started to become more interested in the subject, causing me to look for different versions of Yerba Mate – from various Brazilian states as well as Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina – different drinking vessels and ways of preparation; I quickly fell in love with the way each person and region has a particular way of drinking mate: hot, cold, pure, with other herbs, in a guampa, cuia (drinking vessel / cup), palo santo gourd, and many other ways. It’s wonderful to see how Paraguay treats tereré; they have tereré national day, and it’s very common to go to Paraguay and see people on the street with a guampa and thermos in hand. They even have tereré on their office desks and mate with their breakfast, as well as many other behaviors that truly value the culture around this.
I’m a big fan of everything involving Yerba Mate. In Brazil, and other South American countries, mate tea is very common, which is an infusion of water and roasted Yerba Mate leaves. You’ll find this infusion in almost all homes, schools and offices, as well as in every other corner of these countries, usually next to a jar of coffee.
Yerba Mate is meant to be shared
What makes people fall in love with tereré, chimarrão, and mate is the fact that it’s usually taken with friends and family. Unlike other drinks where each person has their own cup, mate is made to be shared, passed from hand to hand, and served to the next person who’s in life as a way of showing respect and friendship; the one who serves the mate deeply wants whoever is next to receive it to enjoy and participate in the ritual.
I created the Tereré / Mate Instagram account so I could share information about Yerba Mate without posting on my personal page, giving me more freedom to express my great passion for this drink that has a beautiful and meaningful relationship with the native people of our region, as well as a custom that is deeply rooted in our culture. We may drink it cold or hot and pure or with other herbs, but we drink it every day; it is our daily motivation and embodies the value of our people, of our history.
Long live Erva Mate, Yerba Mate and Ilex Paraguariensis!