It's currently summer—technically the very end of summer—in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was there last weekend, soaking up every second of delicious heat radiating from the sidewalks, which was lovely but also perhaps just a bit too hot. I was always covered in a shimmery layer of sweat (a glamorous image of what was in reality a very gross scene), and this kept me from drinking Argentina's caffeinated beverage of choice, yerba mate.
Ok, before you all start emailing me and the website in general to inform me about how great it is to drink hot things when it's hot outside: I know. It's great, I know. I promise. But somehow the thought of putting hot mate in my stomach as I soaked up the sun in parque 3 de febrero made me feel even sweatier, if that's possible. So I resigned myself to not having mate until a friend introduced me to tereré.
Admittedly, I was not psyched about this drink at first. The ingredients are regular mate and cold water or...orange juice or lemonade. In the mate. Despite my initial reaction, my friend insisted. So as we walked around the park, he spotted a couple sitting on the grass, sharing tereré. "You want to try?" He asked me, and before waiting for an answer, he ran over to the girl holding the cup. "My friend is American and she doesn't know tereré," he told her in Spanish. "Can she try?" The girl nodded and passed her guampa over to me, and I took a tentative sip.
The first thing that's great about it is how cold it is coming through the bombilla, or metal straw you typically drink mate with. Then there's the taste. This girl had filled hers with orange juice, and combined with the mate, it was great - refreshing and tangy, with a little extra kick from the herbs. And now, I'll admit, I really want to have more.
Tereré comes from Paraguay, and while the roots of this drink are disputed (like every good origin story), there are a couple theories: First, the Guarani natives in Paraguay invented the drink before the country was colonized. The other theory is that Paraguayan troops came up with tereré during the Chaco War, which lasted from 1932-1935. They switched to cold water both to avoid making fires and to enjoy something cold in extremely high temperatures.
Now I’m back in New York. We just had snow dumped all over us and my sunburn is starting to fade to more ghostly pale, but I’m ready and waiting for warmer weather and the next chance to sip tereré in the park.