Weed Lady's Tereré

Just thinking about the sound of the pounding mortar and pestle at the corner “weed ladys” stand makes me thirsty. My wife and I served in the Peace Corps for three years in the hot South American country of Paraguay and we both came back hooked on the undisputed national beverage, tereré, a bitter green iced tea made from the native yerba maté shrub. Aside from the social nature of the beverage, which is always drunk from a common cup and metal straw that’s passed back and forth around chat circles, what’s really fun and interesting about drinking maté are the associated medicinal herbs.

Before living in Paraguay, I had never been in a culture where wild herbs are so widely known and their medicinal properties are such common knowledge. In fact, these humble plants are the topic of respect and discussion throughout the country. This indigenous knowledge has been passed down from one tereré circle to another over thousands of generations since the Guarani of Paraguay first discovered yerba maté’s energizing, thirst-quenching properties which stimulate the immune system while providing a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and 15 amino acids.

When preparing tereré, Paraguayans love to walk onto their patios or stroll down to the corner vendor, grab whatever herbs strike their fancy or will treat what ails them, throw them in the mortar, mash them up, and dump them in the serving water for a powerful, fragrant brew that’s different every time. You never drink the same tereré twice and that’s what keeps you coming back for more. …That, and the blazing hot Paraguayan sun!

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.