A Guide to Yaupon Tea Benefits & Recipes
Most people think of tea as only the drink from Asia coming from the Camellia sinensis plant. Familiar with tea only as black or green, they’re missing out on the huge varieties of teas drank around the world.
Some are naturally caffeine free, like South America’s yerba mate, which has its own flavor profile and brewing techniques.
And then there are the teas native to North America…
Yaupon – the North American Secret
Growing up with stories of the Boston Tea Party, many Americans believe all tea has to be imported. Many Canadians and Mexicans also believe tea only comes from other continents.
But what if you could have your tea and drink it too?
What if there was a local source for tea?
What if you could buy tea leaves from a local grower or even grow a tea plant in your own back yard?
Lucky for you, you can with yaupon tea.
What is Yaupon?
Yaupon is a plant that is native to the southeastern part of the United States. Native Americans and early settlers knew the benefits of yaupon and brewed it into a tasty drink. Native Americans also used dried yaupon leaves as a trade good.
Don’t be fooled by yaupon’s Latin name, Ilex vomitoria, as it does not promote vomiting. Its Latin name is an unfortunate misnaming for although it was used in rituals including purification rituals, getting sick from it is not a normal reaction.
Yaupon is considered an herbal tea because it doesn’t come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Instead, It comes from a plant that can grow up to 45 feet, which makes it a good-sized tree.
The yaupon tree, also known as yaupon holly and cassina, is sometimes used as ornamental holly during the winter holiday season. The leaves remain green year round and bright red berries highlight the branches during the fall and winter. Spring and summer bring bees and butterflies to the clusters of small white flowers. Birds and other mammals eat the red berries produced from the flowers.
Where Can You Buy Yaupon Tea?
Yaupon tea can be hard to find if there isn’t a local grower near you. Thankfully, the Internet makes it easy to get yaupon tea from these suppliers:
Yaupon Tea vs Traditional Tea
Yaupon tea and traditional tea (from the Camellia sinensis plant) are actually quite similar.
- Both have caffeine
- Both can be brewed from dried or roasted leaves giving both the options of a green or black tea
- Both can be grown as natural, sustainable plants
- Both taste about the same – grassy green and malty black
- Both produce tea from the leaves and twigs
- Both have health benefits, such as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
- Both can be brewed into hot or iced tea
There are differences between yaupon tea and traditional tea.
- Yaupon has less caffeine by weight. Yaupon has .65 – .85% caffeine content while traditional black tea has a little more than 3% caffeine.
- Yaupon has fewer tannins than traditional tea. This means yaupon has a less tart or astringent flavor than black tea. To get a stronger tea flavor, you can brew yaupon longer or use boiling water.
- It’s easier to find traditional green and black tea in your local supermarket. Yaupon remains a specialty tea. Dried and roasted yaupon tea can be purchased from a few growers in the United States. However, the good news is that if you have a green thumb, you could buy, plant, and grow your own yaupon.
Yaupon Tea Recipes
How to Make Hot Yaupon Tea
- Use 1.5 teaspoons of yaupon tea per 6 ounce cup
- Place the measured yaupon tea in a teacup or teapot
- Heat water to boiling
- Pour the boiling water over the measured yaupon tea
- Steep for 4-7 minutes. The longer the steep; the stronger the brew.
- Remove the tea leaves from your cup or enjoy a cup of strained tea from your teapot
- Add a sweetener such as honey if desired
How to Make Iced Yaupon Tea
- Use 2 teaspoons of yaupon tea per 6 ounce cup
- Place the measured yaupon tea in a tea strainer or teapot
- Heat water to boiling. For every 2 teaspoons of tea, heat 6 ounces of water
- Pour the boiling water over the measure yaupon tea
- Steep for 7 minutes
- Remove the tea leaves or strain the tea into a jar or pitcher. If you like your iced tea sweet, add sweetener at this time.
- Cool the brewed yaupon tea to room temperature or refrigerate the tea
- Add ice to a glass and pour on the cooled brewed yaupon tea
I hope you enjoy the benefits of drinking yaupon tea as much as I do!
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