Yerba mate with juice. Discover tereré ruso!
Summer often surprises us with very high temperatures. Seeking to cool down and refresh themselves, many members of our crew have switched to slurping tereré. Cold yerba mate is a tried and tested way to combat the effects of the heat. A portion of dry mate, well-chilled water and, optionally, a few ice cubes. The classic. But what about replacing good old H2O with juice? Specially for you, we decided to test a solution that South Americans often and willingly use. Read on!
- Tereré – cold yerba mate
- Some facts from history. Who invented tereré?
- Tereré ruso – we make our own yerba mate with juice
- What does cold yerba mate with juice taste like?
Tereré – cold yerba mate
The leaves and twigs of Ilex paraguariensis are full of caffeine, vitamins and minerals. They release their priceless properties best not only when exposed to hot water, but also at very low temperatures. The icy yerba-mate-based drink is called tereré – a word derived from the slurping sound made when the water runs out in the mate gourd. Tereré is excellent for cooling down and quenching thirst on hot days. In addition to cold water, ice cubes, fresh herbs, called yuyos by Latinos – the most popular are: mint, burrito, lemon verbena, sarsaparilla, ginger... – or pieces of juicy fruit, such as lemon, orange, watermelon, peach or apple, are often added to the calabash. In South American countries, where the air temperature can reach up to 50 °C during the summer season, a cool drink is a real salvation. It soothes the effects of the ever-present heat, cools, refreshes, quenches thirst and gives the energy needed for action. In 2020, the Paraguayan tradition of drinking cold yerba mate was added to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, making tereré mainly associated with Paraguay. Cold yerba mate is also drunk in Argentina, Brazil and even Bolivia. Originally, a special vessel, the guampa, which is made from a bovine horn or hoof, is used to drink tereré. Paraguayans or Argentines usually also take with them a large, very capacious thermos, filled with ice-cold water, so they can drink cold yerba mate at any time and in any place.
Some facts from history. Who invented tereré?
There are several stories associated with the tradition of drinking cold yerba mate. The background to the first is the Paraguayan War, the bloodiest conflict in South American history, which took place between 1864 and 1870. In an unequal battle, the armies of Paraguay and, on the opposite side, those of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay clashed. Legend says that soldiers on both sides, tired of the tropical heat, took frequent breaks from the war effort to drink their beloved yerba mate and gain strength. They needed hot water to prepare the drink, which involved lighting a campfire, which in turn often betrayed their position in the jungle. So they started pouring cold water over yerba mate, which not only reduced the risk of detection by the enemy, but also proved to be a great way to cope with the oppressive heat.
A similar strategy was used decades later in the war for the Gran Chaco province fought between Paraguay and Bolivia in the 1930s. The area was supposed to be rich in oil, which ultimately proved to be false. During this clash, soldiers, unable to light fires to heat water, were forced to make cold yerba mate. It is said that from this point onwards, tereré began to be drunk on a large scale in South America, making it mistakenly believed that the tradition originated at this time. The truth is, however, that the cold version of yerba mate had already been drunk hundreds of years earlier by the Guarani Indians, who poured ice-cold water straight from the spring over dried and crushed holly leaves and twigs.
During the Chaco War, however, the tradition of drinking yerba mate with juice was born. Many Russian soldiers fought on the Paraguayan side. Most of them were refugees who had fled after the October Revolution. As is well known, at that time mate was unknown outside South America. Unaccustomed to the bitterness of the brew, newcomers from overseas had difficulty getting used to the unfamiliar taste. Instead of water, they began to use cold fruit juices to infuse yerba mate, whose sweetness effectively neutralised the drink's dry character. Over time, a fruity variation of tereré de jugo, or “tereré with juice” in Spanish, gained popularity among Paraguayans as well. As a tribute to the pioneers of this unusual modification of mate, it came to be known as tereré ruso – “Russian tereré”.
Tereré ruso – we make our own yerba mate with juice
After a brief historical introduction, we can move on to our sweet and fruity experiment. We have chosen the Brazilian Verde Mate Green Tereré as the base for the cold, sweet yerba mate. As the name suggests, this variety of Verde Mate is dedicated to cold consumption. In our office, we unanimously consider it one of the best options for cooling down. Its defining characteristic is the complex but pleasantly balanced composition of the whole. It has goji berries, pineapple cubes, lemongrass, orange peel and mint. We decided to see how such a mix would work with sweet drinks. We prepared: apple juice, orange juice, strawberry nectar and passion fruit nectar. The “brewing” temperature of the tereré needs to be very low, so we did not forget to stock up on ice cubes. Each of the four calabashes was filled about halfway with the dry product. We topped each with four different juices and a few ice cubes in turn. We waited several minutes for the drought to stretch and we could taste. The whole thing took a little longer to prepare than the hot brew. The properties of yerba mate are released much more slowly under cold liquid.
What does cold yerba mate with juice taste like? Effects of the experiment
A few minutes of patience and finally we can taste it! The first was yerba mate with orange juice. We used freshly-squeezed juice, with no added sugar. The mild sweetness corresponds quite well with the more dry whole. It's not bad! Next was the apple, also 100% juice, not from concentrate. Again, a positive surprise. The bitterness of the mate blended perfectly with the refreshing taste of this fruit! A really great combination. The passion fruit drink we bought for the experiment had a hint of sweetness and a lot of characteristic acidity. Once poured, the mate was tasty. However, we got the impression that the distinctiveness of the passion fruit definitely dominated the whole thing. Finally, we were left with the strawberry. The thick and sweet nectar turned out to be excellent with yerba mate and with ice. In subsequent pours, we diluted it a little and still enjoyed it very much. Choosing the best juice for tereré is a tricky business. Each fruit blends differently with yerba mate and reinterprets its dry character in its own way. So it is worth experimenting with different flavours and additives to create the most delicious cold and sweet yerba mate to suit your tastes.
As you can see for yourself, all it takes is a little imagination to add variety to the mateist experience. Rather than declaring a winner in this confrontation, we recommend you carry out a similar degustation in your own home. Don't hesitate to let us know the results of your experiments!
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