Did you know that yerba mate can be enjoyed with cold water as well? It is not just possible — it is delicious, and it’s called tereré! And for some people living in warm climates it is the only way they are consuming yerba mate. There is nothing better than a cold and refreshing tereré on a hot summer day! Let’s explore it in detail and learn how to prepare it and what you’ll need for a perfect, delicious and effortless tereré.
Tereré (pronounced [te-RE-RE] with hard R, almost like [te-DE-DE]) is an infusion similar to mate, but prepared with cold water and ice. It is usually consumed from guampa — a vessel made from cattle horn, and bombilla — a metal or wooden straw with filter at the end. Sometimes people also add juices and herbs to make tereré more sweet, flavorful and increase its medicinal properties.
In the same way as hot mate, the practice of consuming tereré originates from Guaraní tribes, and was later adopted by Jesuits and became the part of culture on the lands of modern Paraguay. The origin of the word tereré is not one hundred percent clear — most likely it has Guaraní origin, but the etymology of the word is highly disputed, with several legends and stories that surround it. My favorite one is that Guaraní people called this drink tereré because they drank each sip of it until there is no more water left in guampa, and they heard those gurgling noises — te-re-re.
To this day tereré is the most popular way of consuming yerba mate in Paraguay. In fact, tereré is officially considered a part of their cultural heritage since 2011, with the National Tereré Day that is celebrated annually on February 26 during the summer in Paraguay, and is recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Today tereré has also become a significant part of culture not only in Paraguay, but also in Argentina and the Central-West and Northern region of Brazil, especially in the state of Mato Grosso, and more and more materos all over the world are embracing it during the hot summer days as one of the best ways to enjoy yerba mate.
Why would you not drink tereré — it is delicious! On a serious note, the weather in Paraguay during the summer is absolutely scorching, with median temperatures that range between 35°C and 45°C / 95°F and 115°F . Compared to Uruguay and biggest Argentinian cities, Paraguay does not have access to Atlantic Ocean and is located closer to the equator, making the climate there much more hot and humid. Drinking ice-cold tereré instead of hot mate is pretty much the only option in such high temperatures, and proves to be extremely refreshing and cooling.
Even if you don’t live in Paraguay or in a similar climate, drinking tereré can be a very rejuvenating experience. If you already enjoy a traditional hot mate — give tereré a chance, and it might pleasantly surprise you. It can be a great alternative to cold-brew coffee and ice tea, not to mention the overly sweet and unhealthy sodas and energy drinks.
You don’t need much to prepare tereré — if you already drink mate you should already have pretty much everything to get started. However, for more authentic experience that is closer to the traditional Paraguayan tereré it is always good to have some extra accessories on hands. Some of those are must-have and some are optional, but I find the following tools and supplies to be the bare minimum for an enjoyable and effortless experience.
Not every yerba mate is suited for tereré. Most of the brands of yerba mate outside of Paraguay assume that you will brew them as hot mate, so ice-cold water is not enough for them to extract enough flavor to make it worthwhile. Naturally, it makes the most sense to stick with yerba mate from Paraguay when it comes to preparing tereré. Paraguayan yerbas are usually designed specifically for cold brewing and sometimes are even overwhelmingly bitter and unbalanced when brewed with hot water. You can never go wrong by picking Paraguayan yerba mate for tereré.
As I mentioned earlier, other countries where mate is a huge part of their culture, such as Argentina and Brazil, also embrace tereré as one of the main ways of consuming yerba mate. Major brands from these countries nowadays also release versions of their yerba mate specifically designed for tereré.
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The final option for tereré are flavored yerba mates and compuestas. In addition to elaborated yerba mate, these blends also contain fruity flavorings, such as orange, lemon, maracuya, etc. and/or dry herbs that enhance the flavor of yerba mate, such as mint, lemongrass, chamomile, etc. In my experience, not all of these yerba mates are suited for tereré, but ones that do I found to be absolutely great and delicious.
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Originally guampa was a vessel made from cattle horn that was used for drinking tereré by rural people and cowboys. Cattle horn is a durable and natural material, and guampas proved to be a great and reliable accessory for tereré. If you want the most authentic tereré experience — grab yourself a horn guampa.
Today, guampas are made from many other ubiquitous materials, such as glass, wood or metal, but are still usually shaped like a horn for a more traditional look.
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Instead of a horn-shaped guampa you can also opt for a plain and simple stainless steel gourd, which is very resilient and does not impart any flavor to the tereré. When it comes to a calabash gourd, which is a traditional vessel for hot mate, in my experience they are not a great option for tereré — something about cold water makes it taste like a wet pumpkin and ruins the delicate flavor of yerba mate.
And finally, if you don’t have guampa or metal gourd, any tall glass or cup can serve as a vessel for tereré.
Just as with hot mate, drinking tereré will require a bombilla — a metal straw with a filter. The cut of yerba mate for tereré is usually pretty coarse, and although Paraguayan yerbas are generally a little dustier than, say, Argentine yerbas, pretty much any bombilla will do the trick. My personal favorites for the most effortless tereré, though, are still spoon bombillas.
Obviously, for tereré we will need some cold water! Water for mate and tereré is extremely important, so use a quality one. I like to keep a bottle or two of water in my fridge to always have it ready when I need it. Alternatively, you can use some room temperature water and cool it down with lots of ice, since you’ll likely still need some.
If you already have cold water in stock then you won’t need much ice, but keep in mind that you’ll need more of it if you will use room temperature water. Some people also like to put an ice cube directly on top of yerba mate inside the guampa, but personally, I find it to be distracting and unnecessary.
Last, but not least is the thermos. Objectively speaking you don’t need it — depending on how fast will be your tereré session, you may be fine with a jug of water filled with ice, but in my experience thermos is the best quality of life addition you can make for your mate or tereré. With thermos, I find that I need just 3 medium cubes of ice to keep it cool throughout the long tereré session and not worry that my water will become less than ice-cold anytime soon.
For a more authentic tereré experience you can grab a thermos and guampa set that is very popular in Paraguay. Even Cristiano Ronaldo uses a similar one!
Preparing tereré is pretty simple and straightforward. Grab your favorite yerba mate that is suitable for tereré, all the accessories that you have and let’s get started!
Fill guampa with yerba
Fill your guampa 2/3 to 3/4 with your yerba mate of choice.
Cover the opening of guampa with the palm of your hand. Then turn guampa upside down. After that gently shake guampa couple of times. Slowly turn it back, maintaining the mountain of yerba.
Pour room temperature water into guampa
Pour room temperature water on the other side of the slope in the guampa to prime the yerba mate and make it more moldable.
Add water and ice to thermos
Fill your thermos with cold water and add ice to keep it cold inside.
Pour water into guampa and enjoy!
Insert bombilla on the opposite side of mountain of yerba and tuck it under. After that simply pour ice-cold water into the waterhole in guampa. Sip and enjoy!
Sometimes when people first try tereré they find it lackluster compared to a hot mate. That was my experience back in the day — I thought there was something missing in the experience. What helped me fall in love with this drink was the addition of juices and herbs, which took it to a whole new level. Now I learned to enjoy and appreciate the earthy and woodsy flavors of a raw tereré with no additions, but I still like to diversify my experience by adding few things to it. If the traditional tereré experience did not excite you after you tried it — here are few things you can try.
The practice of adding freshly squeezed juices to tereré became pretty common in Paraguay and Brazil, but many people believe that it started in Argentina, where people started to adopt brewing yerba mate with cold water but did not initially find it that good compared to hot mate that is more traditional to this country. Tereré with juice is also known as tereré ruso, because it is believed that it originated from Slavic immigrants in the northeastern provinces of Argentina.
In order to prepare tereré ruso, obviously you’ll need some freshly squeezed juice. Citrus juices, like lemon, orange or grapefruit, in my experience, work the best and play well together with yerba mate. I also prefer to dilute my juice with water to make it less tart and not too overpowering, but you can go with unadulterated juice if you want to. You can also throw in some pieces of fruit for extra flavor.
The practice of adding fresh herbs to tereré is extremely common in Paraguay, to the point that people in this country drink their tereré almost exclusively with added herbs — yuyos. On the streets of Paraguayan cities you can often find yuyerias where you can choose fresh yuyos that you want to add to your tereré. Most people don’t do it to enhance the flavor though — yuyos are added for their healing and medicinal properties. Some medicinal herbs, or pohá ñaná in Guaraní language, help with headache, some battle with stomach issues, and some make tereré even more refreshing and energizing.
There are dozens if not hundreds of yuyos that you can add to your tereré to make it more potent and delicious. If you’re not in Paraguay, a lot of them will be pretty hard to find though. My favorite ubiquitous herbs, that you can find in almost any grocery store or farmers market anywhere in the world, are mint (especially peppermint), lemongrass, ginger and lemon balm. In order to add them to tereré you must first crush them with mortar and pestle, or at least tear them apart and bruise a little to release their oils and compounds. Then you simply throw your yuyos of choice into your thermos and shake it a bit to start infusing the water inside.
I hope this helps you make a perfect tereré that will make you fall in love with this drink. If you haven’t yet had tereré — try it! If you tried it before but didn’t like it — give it another shot! I find that the choice of yerba mate makes all the difference in the world, so keep experimenting and check out our Reviews (especially Paraguayan section) for more inspiration for what yerba mate to try in tereré form.
Have you tried tereré, and what are your thoughts? What is your favorite yerba mate for tereré? Do you like it plain and simple, or with added herbs and juices? What is your preferred way of consuming yerba mate — hot or cold? Share it in the comments!