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  • Writer's pictureHula Consulting

You Know About Yaupon Tea?

Tea, by definition, is made of leaves harvested from a single plant species called Camellia sinensis. Commonly, the word “tea” refers to the whole category of beverages made from herbs and botanicals brewed with hot water, even when these plants are not technically tea. Herbal teas typically don't come from tea leaves. Instead, they're most commonly naturally caffeine-free brews made from bushes, seeds, berries, flowers, and roots.

The Leaf

So what do we call the one that is naturally caffeinated, does not contain the Camellia sinensis plant, tastes amazing both hot and iced, and grows wild in North America? If you said magical, you're not wrong. It might sound too good to be true, but it's Ilex vomitoria or yaupon (pronounced yō-pon). This holly bush is North America's only known native caffeinated plant and serves a flavorful beverage rooted in history.

bush used to produce yaupon tea

The Buzz

According to the American Yaupon Association (AYA) more than 10,000 pounds of yaupon are now distributed yearly. The broader tea category is expected to become an $81.6 billion global industry by 2026, according to research by Allied Market Research.

CatSprings Yaupon tea hula consulting

Yaupon was named a Top 10 Food Prediction for 2023 by the Whole Foods Market Trends Council, and it looks like their crystal ball was correct!

Yaupon tea has found its way into fresh and packaged products like kombucha, tea cocktails, and powder beverages, as well as used in restaurant menus in loads of desserts like cookies, cakes, and cheesecake.

The Brew

Yaupon tea is not a new concept — the plant has been brewed and served by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. Yaupon tea's taste is milder than expected, with instructions similar to green tea, brewed in water just under the boil.

“People are surprised by how familiar it tastes,” says Texas native Abianne Falla, founder of CatSpring Yaupon, one of the first commercial suppliers of the crop, based in Cat Spring, Texas.

“They notice that it’s a lot smoother and less astringent. That’s because yaupon doesn’t have tannins, which people usually try to cut with sugar or milk.”

Tannins are those biomolecules responsible for giving the tea its color and dry, somewhat bitter flavor. The lack of these little guys in Yaupon is why it can be steeped multiple times without changing the flavor. It's a tea that you practically can't over-steep!

The Impact

Since it doesn't need to travel across the globe to reach your glass, this Texas-grown bush produces a beverage with a much smaller carbon footprint. The woman-led company, CatSpring Yaupon, relies on pesticide-free, wild growth for these plants. The company proudly states, "Nothing touches these leaves but sunshine and rainwater."

Yerba Mate

Another member of the holly family is Ilex paraguariensis. You might recognize this one by its common name, Yerba mate. The national drink of Paraguay, legend says the South American brew has the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the joy of chocolate.


Another cousin whose tea you may have sipped is Guayusa. This plant's caffeinated leaves natively grow in the Amazon rainforest. Unlike yerba mate leaves, which are picked with stems attached, only the leaf is picked for Guayusa. This is similar to teas derived from Camellia sinensis.

Thirsty for more?

The #teaexperts at Hula Consulting are honored to introduce you to CatSpring Yaupon. If you'd like assistance with providing CatSpring Yaupon in your retail store or food service establishment or to sample these products for your own blending, please email or call 561.600.7025 for pricing and samples. We look forward to discussing your tea business with you!

📸 Photographs and information used with permission provided by CatSpring Yaupon. @catspringyaupon

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