Like Mate or Guayusa, Yaupon teas do not actually contain Camellia sinensis, and instead consists of leaves of the yaupon plant, a common shrub often used as a decorative plant. Part of the holly family, Yaupon is resilient, the only plant native to North America to contain caffeine, and primarily grows in southeastern United States.
Yaupon’s rich history begins over one thousand years ago, even as early as 750 AD, when native cultures brewed it, primarily as a medicinal tea. Known as “our beloved tree” to the Cherokees, the brew was also associated with a sky deity named Yahola and was usually consumed only by adult males of high social status. It also served as an ingredient in an infusion known as black drink, brewed for ritual ceremonies to purge toxins from the body and prepare for battle. Tribes even traded for yaupon, and traces of its movement have been found as far north as Illinois, primarily along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
Like many plants’ native to North America, Yaupon was introduced to early colonizers as early as the 16th century, when Timucua Indians taught Spanish settlers about its benefits in what is now modern-day Florida. It was immensely popular, so much so that in 1615 a Spanish priest claimed, “there is not a Spaniard or Indian who does not drink it every day in the morning or evening”. It eventually earned its modern-day name Yaupon when English settlers in North Carolina were introduced to the plant in the 18th century. It was carried back to Europe for trading, where it was known as Carolina tea in England and Appalachian in France.
The brew is shrouded in mystery from point forward. All international trading of the plant halted in the 19th century, and the reason is still unclear. The more prevalent theory involves tea conspiracy, when William Aiton, an influential botanist gave yaupon the specific name Ilex vomitoria, thus commencing an association between yaupon and vomiting. Contemporary reports have of course disproved these claims, but the damage in the 19th century had been done, and while no one know what promoted Aiton to coin the name, there is evidence to suggest that the East India Company may have benefited from the disappearance of yaupon as a competitor.
Today, Yaupon is once again known for its health benefits, including jitter-free energy boost with about 25mg of caffeine per serving. Some say its caffeine without the anxiety, but it also helps to boost the immune system, helps regulate cholesterol, works as an anti-inflammatory, and is said to prevent the absorption of fats, helping with weight loss. It’s packed full of antioxidants, as well as theobromine, a compound also found in chocolate that elevates your mood, boosts your mental health, and is good for oral health.
Yaupon Quick Facts/Summary
- Yaupon tea does not contain Camellia Sinesis and are instead made up from the leaves of a holly plant common to the southeastern portion of North America.
- It is the only plant native to North America that contains caffeine.
- Yaupon tea does not contain the same tannins that regular tea does, meaning it has a smoother, richer taste that isnt quite as astringent as a traditional black tea and is much harder to over steep.
- Like its plant cousin, Guayusa, Yaupon is bursting with health benefits, including giving the immune system and your energy a natural boost. It also is known to contain anti-inflammatory properties, help regulating cholesterol, and assist with weight loss.
- Our Yaupon comes to us straight from Cat Spring, Texas!
Pictured is Mocha Yaupon.