In Paraguay, tereré is a national beverage. The name tereré originates from Guaraní, an indigenous language and one of the two official languages in Paraguay, the other being Spanish.

Tereré is basically a tea of yerba maté, which is made from the smoked leaves and twigs of a tree grown in South America. Yerba maté was initially utilized and cultivated by the Guaraní people.

Tereré is almost always made with ice-cold water held in a thermos or pitcher and poured into a special cup. That cup, called a guampa, is traditionally made of a hollowed-out cow horn but can also be made of carved wood and metal. The yerba maté, or yerba, fills this guampa. A metal straw, called a bombilla, is used to drink the tereré. It has a filter at its base so you won’t swallow the leaves and twigs, nor will they get stuck in the straw.

Tereré has been declared Paraguay’s national drink, and the last Saturday in February is the celebration of Día Nacional del Tereré (the National Day of Tereré). It is so popular that there are more than 20 different brands sold in the stores with many of the brands having 10 or more different flavours.

Wherever you go in this world, you can always recognize a Paraguayan because they so often carry their tereré accoutrements with them! This practice, so foreign from any found in the USA, is part of Paraguay’s culture. It’s about friendship and community. In preparing tereré, drinking tereré or conversing about tereré, it quickly becomes clear that each offer of a sip, each refilling of a guampa, opens a door, an invitation into relationship, respect, friendship. Take a sip and pass it on.

Steve and Monica Gutzmer,
Asunción, Paraguay