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.