TERERE IN GUAMPA: Tradition and culture from the Guaranies to your table
Terere (Tereré or Tererê) is a traditional drink originally conceived by the Guarani, native peoples from South America, who inhabited the regions between Paraguay, Uruguay, northern Argentina and southern Brazil. It is an infusion prepared with Yerba mate (Illex paraguayensis), a native plant from these countries, along with other herbs, with cold water or citric juice. The refreshing and hydrating properties were also a delight for the Jesuitical monks that praised the drink as “more invigorating than wine and chocolate”, according to written accounts of the X V I I century. The drink has transformed through time, and we certainly don’t drink the same drink that the Guarani sipped.
However, most of its tradition has endured the pass of time, war, and many other radical changes in the societies of the countries where it was born, to reach us today. The terere is a common drink today in many South American countries, were most people, myself included, drink it several times a day. In its origin it was a social practice, were families gathered and shared terere to withstand the humid and suffocating temperatures of the sub-tropical jungles.
Recent studies have shown how this tradition might have helped promote the spread of antigens between family members, which would have improved the overall health of the Guarani. The yerba mate has also another set of desirable properties, which make it attractive today as a health food. Indeed the interest in this plant has reached the four corners of the globe, with demand growing steadily in Europe and Asia.
Health related properties of Terere
Yerba mate, the main ingredient of Terere is known for its stimulating properties, containing Mateine, usually disregarded as a chemical isomer to caffeine. However, caffeine has no chemical isomers, and the effects of mateine have been backed up with scientific evidence, which gives this compound the spotlight, since it doesn’t produce addiction or insomnia. It is also good for digestion.
It is great to keep focus; many students claim that you are not really studying until you make yourself a terere. Even Batman drank yerba mate, when the best seller comic got an Argentinean writer. Learn all you need to know about Yerba mate by clicking here.
Terere also contains many important minerals (like magnesium, potassium and manganese), which along with other herbs like lemon grass or mint, makes this drink ideal for a hot summer day.
Reduces lipid intake
More discussed effects include interactions with the metabolism of lipids, which may give terere a fat reducing effect. However, hard evidence on this is not very abundant or sound.
Caffeoyl-derivatives contained in the leaves of Illex paraguayensis are related to the antioxidant activity of the Yerba mate.
How to prepare Terere
Terere is not drink as your everyday infusion, although you can prepare it that way. The traditional terere involves a “mate” or “guampa” and a “bombilla” or perforated straw. The mate is a small container, usually made of a small pumpkin or gourd, or carved in wood. The yerba mate is placed in the mate, and water is added to it, and then drank through the straw. You pass along the mate ready to drink to another person who is sharing terere with you, who give it back empty for you to refill and continue to the next person.
To prepare a delicious terere this way you will need the following ingredients:
- Yerba mate, scientific name: illex paraguayensis
- A “guampa” or “mate” or wooden pot, a small water glass would do.
- A “bombilla” or straw. It is important that you close one end of the straw and make small holes in it to filter out the yerba.
- Ice cold water.
Once you’ve gathered these ingredients, follow the next steps:
1) Pour yerba mate in the “mate”, filling up half of the recipient.
2) Place your hand on the mouth of the mate or glass, and shake it. Watch out for any escaping yerba mate! End up your shaking with the mouth pointing down, and gently turn it up again. Remove your hand, and you will see it is covered in yerba mate powder. Clean your hand and repeat the process a couple of times to eliminate as much powder as possible.
3) Now tilt the mate to a side, letting the yerba mate lean on one side of the container. Now straighten it up again, not allowing the yerba to return completely. You have effectively dig a hole in the yerba mate.
4) Now pour the ice cold water gently in the hole, watching not to wet all the yerba. Master terere makers leave dry yerba until the last terere.
5) It is time now to place the straw in the hole, and drink this heavenly infusion.
Remember you have to pour more water each time, and pass it along to your friends and/or family.
You can drink terere as tea; simply leave the yerba mate leaves in a tea mesh for 15 minutes. Two soup spoons per liter of water will do. Add sugar as needed, or drink bitter, which is the most common way. Fr a stronger variant, biol the yerba mate, and let it cool down. A fair warning, it will be much more bitter now!
The most common alternative is to replace the cold water with fruit juice, citric fruits work best. As a general rule, the more acid the juice, the best the flavor will be. This variation is called Russian terere, after the Russian immigrants who established in the south American nations after the second world war. The immigrants were unfamiliar with the hot weathers of their new homes and quickly seized the most popular drink, adding it their own twist, as the excessive bitterness didn’t suit their palates.
You can add sugar if you don’t like the bitter taste of yerba mate. Add it to the serving water or juice, as it will add a lingering sweetness for all the servings. Some people like to add it on each serving right inside the mate.
GOOD TO KNOW!
Guayusa or Ilex Guayusa is native to the upper Amazonian Regions of Ecuador, Peru, and southern Colombia.
Yerba mate or Ilex Paraguariensis is grown in northern Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil.