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Published: April 11th 2006
Yerba Mate Altar
The Yerba Mate plant has deep roots in Paraguayan history, as shown by the image of it carved into the altar of the church the Jesuits built at their mission.
Tereré is an important part of Paraguayan society. It is an ice cold variant of mate, a tea made from the leaves of the Yerba Mate plant, a species of holly native to the region. Cultivated originally by the Guaraní Tribes and later spread by Jesuit missionaries, mate is popular in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and the southern regions of Brazil and Bolivia.
In Paraguay the tradition of Tereré has been augmented by modern technology, and in order to keep their water cold most people carry it in a thermos. Some of these thermoses are bound in hand worked leather that is decorated with a variety of images. The traditional drinking gourds are held in an attached leather ring. Gourds are made from hollowed out bull horns, wood and even stainless steel. The chopped leaves of the Yerba Mate are placed in the gourd, cold water is poured in and the Tereré sipped through a metal straw called a bombilla. Tereré is not only best served cold, it is best shared, so the gourd is passed around and everyone takes a sip. Occasionally the water is flavored with lime juice or chopped lemon grass. Sometimes herbs are added that have medicinal
This street vendor is preparing herbs to be added to the water used to prepare Tereré. These are added for flavor or as remedies for a variety of ailments.
value, to cure minor ailments.
The first time I tried Tereré it was after Paul and Rosa had drunk enough of it to flatten out the flavor and strength of it some. It tasted like grass. It never really stopped tasting like grass, and although it was refreshing in the Paraguayan heat I never noticed any other effects from it. Yerba Mate contains a stimulant similar to caffeine (xanthines, a related alkaloid), but I never drank enough to notice.
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