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. I was introduced to this plant when I discovered Wild Terra in Highland Park. Danielle Noe, the owner, sources hers from Texas where the growing conditions are ideal for this plant. 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.
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