Thursday, March 24, 2016

Yaupon Tea + happy arrival of spring weekend

Did you know that the yaupon holly shrub, native to Texas, is the only locally-grown source of caffeine in the U.S.?  It's drought-tolerant, super hardy, and occurs naturally all around our family land in Austin County, Texas.  Yaupon is similar to Yerba Mate, but I think has a milder taste that's quite pleasant, more like a green tea.

Yaupon is also an excellent habitat plant.  It does well in sun to shade, is drought-tolerant, and accepts varying soils. The bright red berries on the female plant are a favorite of several species of birds, as well as possums and raccoons.  This time of year, you are able to see the still-present winter berries, as well as the new, tiny, white spring blossoms. 

We welcomed in spring a few days ago, and we did so in country style, celebrating the change of season in Austin County:

Discing in a sunflower crop for the deer...

Watching the bluebirds, and enjoying the bluebonnets...

Running the dogs (a tired dog is a good dog)...

And harvesting new yaupon leaves for tea.

For tea, I harvested the tender, young, new growth—the leaves that are lighter, yellowish in color (leaves only, NOT the berries, which are poisonous). 

Once harvested, I dried them in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes, then crushed them.  

I added about a Tablespoon dried leaves per cup of water and brought to a boil, then cut the heat and let the tea steep, covered, for about 15 minutes.  I strained the tea and liquid into a pitcher, sweetened with a little honey, and enjoyed it over ice.  

Now THAT is a refreshing welcome to spring!


  1. I always love to read about people experimenting with yaupon. You can change the flavor of the final product quite a bit with a few simple methods. Try bruising the leaves after harvesting them and then let it dry for a few days before roasting them in the oven till they're dark brown ;)

    Jason Ellis

    1. Thank you for these tips, Jason, I'll definitely give that a try the next time. Experimenting drives the fun. Will that make for a bolder flavor?