Terere is a drink that consists of yerba mate. The yerba mate is dried and is often mixed with other herbs. My favorite blend has boldo and mint. The dried herbs are poured to fill about two thirds of a cup (there’s a special cup for terere that’s called a guampa). Cold water is poured over the herb mixture. You drink terere through a medial straw called a bombilla that has something like a tea filter/strainer on the tip. You can also put fresh herbs or lemon in the water you use to pour over the herbs.
Most Paraguayans drink terere, and they drink it a lot. I’d say terere is the first free-time pastime, surpassing soccer because you can drink terere while watching soccer. Drinking terere is social and can go on for hours.
You can drink terere alone or in a group. When drinking in a group, everyone drinks from the same cup and there are some basic social guidelines:
- The first cup poured is for Saint Thomas. Why? The water is absorbed by the dry yerba mate so no living person can drink it.
- When serving terere you should pass to your right. The water should be poured into the cup so that it just covers the dried herbs.
- When you get the terere cup, you must drink all the liquid in the cup. You should finish it in 1 to 2 sips (I usually need 3).
- You should NOT drink terere while you are eating or smoking because the flavor gets stuck in the straw (yuck). You also should not participate in drinking terere if you are sick. It is your responsibility to say “no” if you are sick because people will still offer terere to you to be polite.
- You shouldn’t keep the guampa too long, so when it’s your turn to drink take a break from talking.
- Don’t say “thank you” when someone passes you the cup unless you want to stop drinking terere. You only say “thank you” when you are done drinking.