Mate and Argentina go together like steak and malbec. Seventy percent of Argentines drink on average one hundred liters of this herbal tea per year, that’s about 63 million tons of yerba.
The amount of yerba mate consumption in Argentina is on the rise. This growth is connected to the increasing consumption of tereré. What is tereré?
Tereré originated in Paraguay and the Río Platense region of South America and in a nutshell is mate served with either cold water or juice. The word terere is an onomatopoeia for the sound made by the last few drops of water making their way up the mate straw.
Drinking tereré is just like drinking mate, except the water is cold. All you need to enjoy it is a mate cup, a straw (bombilla) and a thermos.
Just as the origins of Pisco are debated between the Peruvians and the Chileans, some Argentines, Brazilians and Paraguayans all claim to have first created the drink. Nevertheless, the most commonly accepted histories are the following.
The Guarani natives to Paraguay had long been drinking tereré before the Jesuits began colonizing Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia around the 12th century. The Spanish Jesuit monks praised the drink for its healing medicinal effects and its remarkable ability to relinquish thirst.
It is also said that during the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia 1932-1935, the Paraguayan troops started drinking mate with cold water so as not to start campfires that might give away their position. Additionally, the extremely high temperatures of the zone made drinking cold rather than warm mate much more pleasurable.
Terere was drunk much more in the north of Argentina until the last few years. Nowadays, around forty percent of Argentines are drinking terere. Because the cold water isn’t absorbed in the yerba as fast as warm water, one serving lasts longer than a typical mate round, which is usually about one liter. Many people bring two or three-liter thermoses filled with cold water or juice when drinking Tereré.
Tereré was declared the national beverage of Paraguay and it is widely drunk by Argentines as well. So if you want to vary your mate circle, give tereré a try!
Written by Brian Athey