Yaupon is a sister plant to both yerba maté and guayusa. They are all in the holly family, they all have caffeine, but yaupon (yo-pahn) is the only one native to North America. It is robust and grows wild with many people using it as a hedge or trying to remove it, not knowing it’s history as an ancient revitalizing herb.
It’s formal name is Ilex vomitoria. Unfortunate. Kind of like being born with the last name Puke or Dorq or something. Don’t hold the name against the plant as it is much more tasty and positive than its Latin name implies. Apparently it was used in purification by Native Americans, but it is not a vomit-inducing plant. It was a botanist to King George the III that named it in 1789, apparently based on such reports. There are theories that he was ‘influenced’ to do so by the powerful tea trade of the time.
Like, maté and guayusa, yaupon gives a good caffeine kick-in-the-pants without jitters or crashes. As I understand it, the caffeine content of yaupon generally falls between black tea and coffee depending where it is grown/harvested and on how strongly it is made (steep time and amount).
Like it’s sister herbs it is hard to over steep as it doesn’t suffer from tannin overload like over steeped tea does. It just results in a flavor that is more robust. Like with maté, the leaves can be resteeped throughout the day.
Also like maté, which is traditionally drank from hollowed out gourds, yaupon has its own unique traditional vessels. Decorated shells were used as drinking vessels by Native American tribes. You can see a picture of one here .
Ecologically yaupon is a great plant to grow. Because it is robust and grows wild land doesn’t need to be cleared to grow it. It can be grown amongst other native plants without disturbing the ecosystem.
I tried the yaupon dark which is roasted. The broken leaves reminded me of dragon scales. The flavor moved from a light caramel-like earthiness to a deeper nuttiness when brewed longer. I found it less bitter than maté. The kick was a feeling of alertness without any shaking, crashing or stomach gnawing (anyone else get that from brewed coffee? Ouch.) I only tried it plain and I like it’s natural taste, but I think it could pair with sweetener and/or creamer much like a mate latte does. It can be made to taste just like tea so the choice is yours. Have any of you tried yaupon already? Let us know what you think here or here.
Wishing you great adventures in tea.
-by Cassandra Vincent
This is not a sponsored post.
One of Greater Los Angeles’ very cool evolving areas is Highland Park. From music venues with an independent community scene, to vegan cafes, to dollar stores, to long standing local favorites to new privately owned specialty shops Highland Park is eclectic and surprising. I became intrigued by this area when hosting for the Youbloom music festival at the Hi Hat. Recently I felt the urge to do more exploring there. Interestingly, the very first place I discovered after parking was Wild Terra - an herbal apothecary with a small, carefully curated tea section. They had only been open a week. The owner Danielle Noe and I got talking about a mutual love of tea. She said Earl Grey was her ‘comfort food’ growing up.
The energy. The serendipity. I had to do a blog on this place.
Even better for this tea and entertainment blog, Danielle has a wild background as a special effects makeup artist having worked on some stuff you may have heard of - HBO’s True Blood and the Aquaman film, for example. As a matter of fact, the windows at the back of the shop were from Merlotte’s bar! (see the gallery below) Man, TV and film are everywhere in this town. So cool.
From Bon Temps to Herbs and Tea
Danielle has a clear love for herbs and spices, how they grow and what they can do for the body. Most of what she carries herb-wise is from California and all of it is organic. She even grows some herself. There are two sections of wall dedicated to herbs and spices including 3 types of Holy Basil, Damiana, Mugwort, Skullcap and on and on.
Tea-wise the selection is small but carefully chosen. Some of the teas are from Biodynamic farms, most are organic except for those from Africa which are Fair Trade. She orders directly from some of the estates including Bitaco, a certified organic tea farm from Columbia which has been growing tea for 60 years. Danielle shared their Tippy Negro 2 with me which reminded me of a light Yunnan - smooth and mellow and the color of liquid amber. She has multiple teas from Kenya, including the new purple tea (read more on what that is here). She has an organic Assam from India and some compelling Chinese teas. There are teas from Japan on the way too.
Included in the tea wall are Yerba Mate, and the only US native plant with caffeine, Yaupon. It is in the same holly genus as Yerba Mate and Guayusa and contains similar amounts of caffeine. Danielle also carries two types of Coffee Leaf, regular and mango scented. Yes, there is such a thing as coffee leaf that is steeped like tea! Crazy! (I got to do some tasting and will share that part of the experience in a separate post).
Other Unique Finds
Wild Terra has a variety of mushrooms including whole Reishi mushrooms which look like some pre-historic relic (see pic). She makes tinctures from them too with a triple extraction process:
Wild Terra also carries:
So go get your tea and herb on in this little gem in Highland Park! Tell Danielle the Tea Deviant sent you;)
There are two Blue Moons this year. My friend and I set our alarms for 5am this past January 31st to step out and groggily try to view the even rarer Super Blue Blood Moon – the first to be seen from the US since 1866. The next one will be in 2037 so it seemed worth it to try and catch this one. So there we were, two women in our pajamas on the sidewalk in the blackness of early morning that looks like night trying to take a picture through binoculars with an iphone of a moon that kind of looked like a floating orange. It was very cool though. NASA’s pictures do it far more justice but here is one of ours.
When I posted the pics on twitter I noticed posts about Blue Moon Tea from Adagio Teas. They have an herbal blend called Bella Luna Blue that they only sell on the day of a blue moon. It is also blue in color when brewed. Very intriguing. Then, as there is another Blue Moon (though not Blue Blood Moon) March 31st, Adagio reached out to me about this unique tea. I love all that synchronicity! (the next seasonal blue moon will be on August 22 2021!) I gladly took the opportunity for a new tea experience so here we are. The ingredient of this blend that gives it such a beautiful indigo blue color is pea flower. The other elements of this blend are lemongrass and natural blueberry flavor.
SCENT – The dry leaves have a sweet blueberry dessert-like scent with the lemongrass walking around in the background. The pea flower doesn’t seem to add much scent. The steeped tea is also sweet smelling, like a blueberry cobbler.
TASTE – Pea flower by itself is pretty mild. I tasted some of the dried flowers alone and they clearly had some of the blueberry flavor on them but were very innocuous underneath that. Some compare pea flower taste to an earthy green tea, but I feel it reminds me more of barley tea. In combination with the lemongrass and blueberry flavor the tea is well blended with all the flavors holding hands in harmony. I like it both unsweetened and sweetened with a bit of honey. The honey brought out the blueberry flavor more.
We took pictures of the tea in a few different vessels with light from above and from behind, with more or less tea and sometimes there were multiple colors visible including purples and deep pinks like a wild sunset captured in a glass.
Then I started playing with the wet leaves. Many artists paint with tea, so it isn’t novel necessarily, but it is fun. This tea reminded me of watercolors. I couldn’t resist splattering and writing with it. I fully believe in playing with your tea and getting creative with the ways even steeped leaves can be used.
Bonus: I was also able to get more than one steeping out of a round of leaves. Satisfying.
You can get this lovely Bella Luna Blue tea on the day of the next Blue Moon, March 31st 2018, from Adagio Teas. I encourage you to set your alarm, grab a friend, bring some binoculars and go out into the night to gaze skyward for this rare experience!
by Cassandra Vincent
"After a fairly shaky start to the day, Arthur's mind was beginning to reassemble itself from the shell-shocked fragments the previous day had left him with. He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost,
The first loose leaf tea brand I explored while in school in the US was The Republic of Tea. A friend had shared with me one of their herbal blends, Ginseng Peppermint (yeah, I know it’s not technically tea. We’ll get to that). I was never a fan of mint tisane but found I loved this crazy blend. It was such a surprising well-balanced taste and the ginseng offered a kick in the absence of real ‘tea’ caffeine.
I went on to discover The Republic of Tea Blackberry Sage black tea and Ginger Peach black tea which were regular staples in my cupboard. I appreciated not just their unique blends, but also the loose and bagged options. As I still used bags a lot at this time, for travel especially, I really liked that their bags are unbleached. To me there is a massive difference in taste let alone the gross idea of sucking on something that has been through a bleaching process.
When The Republic reached out to me about their new line of herbal tisanes focused on women I was glad to reconnect with the brand. The line is SuperHerb Tea and the one I tried is Nettle. I have had many herbal infusions of a single herb alone and though some are fine this way others do feel like I’m taking medicine either from the blandness or outright yuck taste (valerian – love the effect but it smells like something died in my cup).
The Republic of Tea blends peppermint and vanilla with the organic nettle leaves for a light and well-balanced infusion. It has a lovely gentle sweet smell from the vanilla in particular without smelling like a cake or something. It doesn't lure you in with a smell that ends up being far different from the taste - I hate a bait and switch in my tea. Nettle alone is more of a ‘meh’ feeling than a gross one but I prefer some pleasure with my medicinal benefits and this works for me.
Like most well-known herbs nettle has been used for ages to aid in a variety of ailments and has been through a battery of scientific tests in the more modern world. Nettle is helpful for kidney function, inflammation, hair growth and allergies. Nettle has been used in women’s health for hundreds of years including supporting pregnancy and fertility.
With herbs it is a good idea to make sure your individual needs are met. Like anything else an herb can interact with other medicines/herbs in an undesired way. It’s a good idea to refer to your doctor and do your research. Also, herbs are different for different people based on so many factors outside other medications including body weight. I mean really, is that ‘recommended dosage’ on any bottle meant to apply to both a 120 lb. adult and a 300 lb. adult? Take that into account. I've noticed when I’ve eaten and what I’ve eaten in regard to taking in a supplement has changed my results.
I know that herbal ‘teas’ are technically not tea as they do not contain any camellia sinensis leaves. They are ‘tisanes’ – basically herbs steeped in water, sometimes with fruit and/or spices. The etymology of the word goes back to a reference to medicinal barley water (what the Japanese having been drinking for centuries and call
mugi-cha, but that’s for another post).
I'm a fan of herbal infusions and have used them for years. I think they have a place in the world of tea because of the similar way in which they are prepared for drinking (not manufacture), and how they have become connected in our society.
I’ve told tea about my friendship with herbals and tea doesn’t mind. Tea is very secure about its place in my life;). What herbal teas do you have a good relationship with? Share with fellow tea lovers on Twitter and Facebook.
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