Tereré: A water bottle like no other

Throughout my career as a teacher I have been fortunate to meet people from all walks of life.

I have met and taught people from China, Canada, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Mexico, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Romania, Tunisia, Haiti, Chile, Colombia, Senegal, Spain, Algeria, Belgium, Japan, Portugal, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Morocco, Russia, Angola, Benin, Senegal, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Peru, and Panama.

I am naturally very inquisitive, and intellectually curious – always wanting to learn more, to know the why and the how. My spirit comes alive when I meet new people and learn about new cultures, especially when I meet people from little-known countries or countries plagued by political issues such as  Afghanistan and Iran.  Words cannot explain the excitement I felt when I met my very first student from Afghanistan! The stories he shared were incredibly intriguing. But I digress.

My  first student from Paraguay was Dolores (I’ve changed her name to protect her identity). Last week, Dolores trotted confidently into the classroom with a red oval-shaped, plump-looking jar-shaped thing in one hand. It had what looked like a wooded cup attached to it, from which I could see the snake-curled form of a bronze metal pipe sticking its head out from the cup. “Why would anyone carry such a thing on the streets?”, I asked myself, eyeing Dolores who walked to her seat completely oblivious to the havoc her new friend was wrecking in my little grey cells.

Fascinated, I waited patiently for her to sit and make herself comfortable .

 “What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the red thing.

“It’s the popular bottle of Paraguay. It’s a bottle for water”, said Dolores.

“A water bottle!” My curiosity piqued. And all along, I had been thinking it contained some kind of drink or something she had brought to share with the whole class.  She continued.

“Everybody in Paraguay uses this. Everybody. They use this to drink water.”

” Does everyone carry this bottle on the streets?”

“Yes. This bottle is called Tereré.”

 She went on to explain that Paraguay gets pretty hot and humid in the summer, reaching about 40 to 45 degrees Celsius. It is common for people to carry the Tereré in public and drink from it.

So I decided to do some research.

Some Fun Facts about Tereré

  1. The name Tereré  commonly refers to a kind of tea in Paraguay.
  2. This tea, an infusion of crushed yerba leaves, can be prepared and served hot (yerba mate) or cold with an infusion of herbs and citrus fruits.
  3. You put dry yerba in the cup (guampa), add the straw (bombilla), pour water from a jar or thermos into the guampa and sip.
  4. Tereré ruso (Russian tereré) is a mixture of the tereré drink and fruit juice.
  5. Sometimes, some medicinal herbs are added to this beverage to treat headache, stomach ache or diarrhea.
  6. The tereré bottle comes in many different colours and sizes.
  7. While workers in some countries take a “coffee break”,  in Paraguay they take a “tereré break”.
  8. Sharing tereré: It’s very common to find a group of people seating together and drinking tereré from the same cup. To share tereré in a group, first you drink, then add water to the cup and pass it to the person on your right. This person takes a drink and passes the cup back to you. You add more water and pass it to the next person, and so on. This makes for good company and good conversation, wouldn’t you agree?

I understand that tereré is also common in Brazil. Are there any people from Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina or Uruguay here? Please share your knowledge and culture of tereré.

What we would like to know:

  1. How is hot tereré prepared?
  2. Where can we buy this drink?
  3. Some people say that tereré originated from Paraguay. Is this true?