Tea made from the yerba plant is a huge part of Paraguayan culture. People drink it hot or cold. When it’s served hot, it’s called mate. When it’s served cold, it’s called terere. It’s a social activity done any time people visit in each other’s homes.
Most often the mate is enjoyed early in the morning and in the evenings. Terere is served throughout the day. In some communities a horn is blown to indicate that it’s time for tea.
Often ice and herbs like mint, as well as lemon, are mixed in the water bucket or pitcher and poured over the dried loose tea in the guampa (bull’s horn). Or for mate, hot water containing lemon, honey or coconut is poured in. The bombilla (metal straw closed on one end with little holes to form a strainer) is used to suck the water out of the guampa after the leaves have soaked for a delightful (some say haylike) flavor.
The yerba plant grows wild and plenteous. Some studies say it’s healthy and full of useful vitamins. Others say there seems to be a stimulant in it. You can find it in health food stores in the USA claiming all kinds of miracle powers. Older Paraguayan folk will tell you it enhances the functioning of everything from your brain to your kidneys.
Whatever the nutritional value, offering mate or terere is a cultural expectation that communicates love and care for those who come to visit.