Yaupon Tea: 4 Surprising Reasons to Use Yaupon Holly

Yaupon Tea At a Glance

There is a reason Cherokee people called yaupon “the beloved tree”. From indigenous native Americans to civil war soldiers, yaupon tea has been a powerful, but rarely known beverage.

The yaupon holly tree is the only north american source of caffeine. The yaupon tea has less caffeine than coffee, but more than black tea. It is what we call the “goldilocks of caffeinated beverages”.

Beyond the perfect dosage of caffeine, there are other yaupon tea benefits. One is a chemical called theobromine (found in cocoa and chocolate) among other antioxidants.

Yaupon tea has a nutty flavor and can be cultivated in many parts of the USA for free. There are some vendors who have yaupon tea for sale if you prefer to save some time.

Yaupon Tea Benefits

There is not much scientific research on yaupon tea and the purported benefits, but what we do know is promising.

Caffeine consumption (which often becomes addiction) is rampant across the globe. Many people drink too much coffee, which has a high quantity of caffeine. This leads to numerous side effects.

Yaupon tea has noticeably less caffeine so that it is not overly stimulating. In addition, yaupon has theobromine, which is a mild stimulant that interacts with the brain differently.

The combination of caffeine and theobromine is synergistic.

Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor (closes the blood vessels) while theobromine is a vasodilator (opens the blood vessels). This helps reduce some of the side effects of caffeine.

As with most herbal concoctions, there are numerous compounds that have antioxidant value.

Yaupon is also filled with ursolic acid, which prevents memory impairment [1], may have anti-cancer properties [2], and could support healthy weight management [3].

In many ways, yaupon tea could be a healthier alternative to coffee or black tea.

Yaupon Tea Caffeine Content

The “goldilocks of caffeinated beverages” has significant caffeine, but not too much.

Coffee is about 1.1% caffeine by weight. Yaupon tea is between 0.65 – 0.85% caffeine by weight.

How Does Yaupon Taste?

If caffeine content and health benefits aren’t your cup of tea (ha!) the taste might be more important for you.

Yaupon tea has a nutty flavor with a hint of caramel sweetness. It is not bitter like regular tea because there are no tannins.

This is one of the reasons well-rated restaurants (such as Odd Duck and Dai Due in Austin, Texas) prefer to use yaupon tea versus traditional tea.

yaupon tea

Brief History of Yaupon Tea

The yaupon plant has a long history in north America. It was originally cultivated by native American tribes in the Carolinas and in eastern USA.

The Cherokee commonly used the plant for regular usage and spiritual purposes. The spiritual use was ritualistic purification (drinking too much to induce vomiting) [4].

Within north America before European colonization, trade networks sent yaupon tea all over the country. Some made it as far as Cohokia in Missouri (a city far from native growing yaupon).

Early Europeans who found yaupon considered it a useful tool like coffee. They exported it to Europe, but quickly found it hard to compete with coffee and black tea from Asia [5].

This is the only native american tea based on geography.

Yaupon Tea Civil War Connection

The next wave of interest in yaupon tea came out of necessity. During the civil war, Confederate soldiers in the south struggled with dwindling supplies.

To supplement their meager coffee rations, many soldiers used yaupon tea [6]. The soldiers would add molasses and milk to create a delicious tasting drink [7].

Because yaupon tea was used by poor soldiers who had nothing else, it started to take on the reputation as a drink to be used only in hard times.

Only recently has yaupon tea started to see a revitalization of interest and consumption. Much of this is driven by a desire to consume products from the local environment in the USA.

How to Harvest and Make Yaupon Tea

The art of harvesting and drying yaupon tea has been lost, but it isn’t difficult to imagine how indigenous Cherokee and other tribes would have done it.

The first step is identifying the yaupon holly tree. Most yaupon tea is sourced from naturally growing yaupon (versus large scale production farms).

For many people in Texas (near Oyasin headquarters), farmers are more than happy to see yaupon removed from their property.

The yaupon tree is often considered a pest to farmers and ranchers, but it is a resilient plant. Once the leaves are plucked, take them to a drying rack.

You can make your own drying rack out of materials from screen doors and windows. This allows plenty of ventilation, but you can still hold the dry tea leaves.

Using the sun drying method maintains much of the flavor whereas drying or roasting can sometimes reduce the quality or taste.

Once the tea has dried for a few days and the leaves are a brownish-green and crispy, break them up and steep them to make tea.

Note: If you are impatient and want to make the tea instantly, you can do so within a few hours. Here is a video on how to do that

Yaupon Tea for Sale

If you prefer not to impose upon your neighbors (or simply don’t want to rough it through the brush), there are a few vendors with yaupon tea for sale.

At Oyasin we source from local Texas farmers near the Bastrop area (only an hour from Austin, TX HQ). Our Rouse yaupon tea is a perfect place to start.

For restaurateurs and people who want a few options, there are other brands like Cat Spring Yaupon or Lost Pines as well [8][9].

Whichever brand you choose, yaupon tea is a sustainable caffeinated beverage that is not only good for you, but good for the planet.

At Oyasin, the combination of good for our bodies, brains, and good for the planet is what we strive for whether it is ethically sourced ceremonial cacao, cannabidiol, or yaupon.


  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304004945_Ursolic_acid_attenuates_beta-amyloid-induced_memory_impairment_in_mice
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27219337
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21641545
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435207/
  5. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/04/429071993/heres-the-buzz-on-americas-forgotten-native-tea-plant
  6. “Webb Garrison’s Civil War Dictionary” by Webb Garrison, Sr. page 344
  7. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/yaupon-tea.76671/
  8. https://www.catspringtea.com/
  9. https://lostpinesyaupontea.com/