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YAUPON is the only caffeinated plant native to North America. Native Americans of the Southeast created an herbal infusion of its leaves, called “black drink, for social and ceremonial uses. Oftentimes the leaves were roasted over coals for a period of time before steeping to enhance different properties and flavors. Likewise, each of our three roasts has different characteristics and flavors:
– The green un-roasted leaves have the best buzz and all the fresh flavors of traditional green tea, but with lower tannin levels making the flavor delicate and less astringent.
– The medium roast has a smooth and mild flavor with caramel undertones, similar to Yerba Mate.
– The dark roast has a stronger, richer flavor similar to a black tea and is the most coffee-esque. We especially like it naturally sweetened and blended with pastured butter or Surthrival ghee.
Yaupon contains a balance of caffeine and theobromine (the same gentle stimulant found in cacao) to offer all the energy and enhanced focus of coffee, but without unwanted side effects like heart-racing, jitters, and digestive upset (1,2). It also boasts beneficial levels of ursolic acid, which is known to preserve and build skeletal mass, assist in stabilizing blood sugar, and promote mitochondria-rich brown fat for increased energy expenditure (3).
Key Benefits of Yaupon:
-Caffeine boost without jitters or energy crash
-Less disruption of the central nervous system
-Rich in polyphenols and antioxidants
-A wild whole plant
-Free of herbicides or any agricultural treatments
-Sustainable and ethical harvest
-Available in three roasts
-Easy and versatile to use
-Product of the US
As a thriving and invasive species, Yaupon provides a more local and sustainable source for caffeine that eliminates the reliance on imports, mono-cropping, and unethical labor practices required for the mass production of many popular coffees and teas. Our sourcing provides much-needed opportunity to the surrounding community by employing people with criminal records (for whom it is extremely difficult to find work), and to women experiencing generational poverty. Yaupon is an evergreen, so year-round harvesting and production offers more than just seasonal job opportunities. It is also a bit of an ecological nuisance, so more harvesting means more employment and more product reaching consumers. Everyone wins.
CLASSIFICATION & HISTORY
Yaupon has an unfortunate and misrepresentative botanical classification: Ilex vomitoria. In the same genus as Ilex paraguariensis, which we all know as Yerba Mate, as well as almost 600 other species, the genus encompasses varieties of holly. When settlers arrived on the scene and began observing and classifying plant species, they encountered the ceremonial use of Yaupon by the Southeastern Native Americans for rituals of purging, during which partakers would drink copious amounts of Yaupon—often mixed with other herbal ingredients—and then induce themselves to vomit. This intentional purification practice was mistaken for Yaupon having an emetic effect, which turned out to be false. Nevertheless, the classification stands, but we promise you’ll be able to keep it down.
Native Americans used Yaupon almost ubiquitously across the Southeastern United States—in some cases for ceremonial and ritual purposes, in others for social interactions and peace-making. After the land was colonized, Yaupon remained a popular drink and even found its way by export to England and France. It’s popularity quickly flatlined, however. Some speculate that it was due to William Aiton’s official classification—vomitoria being a less-than enticing name— while others suggest that imported coffees and teas simply became the expensive, fad, exotic, and elite choice for caffeine. Yaupon was all but forgotten except by those living close to the land. Until now.
With the essential re-emergence of the sustainable and local food movement, Yaupon stands a chance at revolutionizing the future of caffeine, re-establishing our connection to our local landscapes, and resolving conflict over ecological and ethical practices the world over.