Are we drinking Tereré?
It’s a fairly frequent question in Paraguay, which can arise in any environment; in the house, at work, in meetings between friends, etc. Tereré is the cold “version” of Yerba Mate, or, as some call it, “cold mate.” And while both cold and hot mate are prepared with the same loose-leaf yerba and water, there are some notable differences.
The taste of tereré is quite difficult to describe; the range of flavors is so wide, it can go from a simple, mild bitter, to being incredibly strong, while also including hints of fruit. Everything depends on a person’s preferences. In many cities of Paraguay, it’s relatively easy to find places selling medicinal herbs, which are the fundamental ingredients in the preparation of the tereré ritual. In the work of selling medicinal herbs, all members of a family participate, helping to both collect and then sell the herbs to various customers. Children, together with their parents, are accustomed to going to the countryside to look for and collect herbs. The most common ones in tereré are perhaps para para´i, which is used for the treatment of kidney stones, and tarope, which is a refreshing remedy ideal for the stomach and it also has an antiparasitic effect. Other herbs and natural additives, which can be obtained in any house, may be orange peels and leaves, lemon peels, mint, cedrón and camomile, even though the latter is preferred to take with hot mate. There are specific herbs for each occasion, and some people choose to add the medicinal type, while others prefer to choose herbs simply based on taste. Other options include the different combinations of mate with medicinal or flavored herbs, available in an infinite amount of variations: anise, mint, boldo, or ka’a he’e, also known as “stevia” for those who prefer sweet tastes more than bitter.
The tradition of tereré in Paraguay
In Paraguay, it’s quite common to take mate in the early hours before heading to work. In many Paraguayan families, it’s a custom to get up early and enjoy mate while preparing breakfast for children to go to school. Due to the subtropical climate of the country, most of the year it’s hot, so, with temperatures close to 38°C (100°F), a rich and refreshing tereré allows us to enjoy most of the day.
The consumption of Yerba Mate is so ingrained in our culture that it’s normal to see people walking with their thermos and guampa (drinking vessel made out of a horn), regardless of age; children drink it (with certain precautions), young people, adults and the elderly, too.
One reason, among many, as to why people enjoy drinking Yerba Mate is because of its countless benefits; it stimulated physical and mental activity, increases circulation, decreases depression, acts as a diuretic, promotes feeling of well-being and vigor, etc. These are just a few of the innumerable positive properties Yerba Mate has for the body.
Yerba Mate with my parents, Tereré with my friends
I started drinking mate with my parents, but I only began to drink tereré with friends, since it’s quite common for a friend or neighbor to call you and say, “what’re you doing? Want to drink tereré?” What I enjoy most about drinking mate or tereré is that you can drink it for hours and hours. In my time as a university student, I drank mate during the night to study, which also helped me to deceive the deep sleep that often struck me at dawn.
I had the privilege of studying at a university where I met many friends from different countries. In the early days, many of them were unaware of Yerba Mate’s existence, so on a handful of occasions, while walking with my thermos in hand and taking tereré in the faculty halls, I’d receive certain cautious looks mixed in with others of curiosity. Many people didn’t want to be left confused, so they dared to ask me what I was drinking. With all of the emotion and humor I could muster, I’d scream, “this is herb!” Their reactions were so funny because when they heard the word, “herb,” they would walk over and look inside my gourd, which caused them to immediately think I was drinking something illegal and not inquire further. However, not all of my interactions with others and tereré ended there. Some brave folks weren’t content to know I was drinking “herb,” and were daring enough to ask for a sip of the exotic drink. This is how I made many new friends, some of which didn’t first like the taste of Yerba Mate, but, a few days later, they would all eventually ask me to prepare it for them.
Why Yerba Mate is so special to me
It’s exciting to witness a friend, who may come from a culture totally different from my own, preparing their own tereré and being the one inviting me to drink.
This is why Yerba Mate is so special to me; it’s a delicious and healthy way to share meaningful moments between friends old and new.
There’s truly nothing better.