Like its cousin, the Yerba Mate, Yaupon is a caffeinated herbal in the holly family, ilex.
Guayusa is another caffeinated ilex species that was popularized in the US market by the Brooklyn-based company, Runa. Guayusa is a native to the Ecuadorian Amazon, while Yerba Mate is native to Northern Argentina, Southern Brazil, and Paraguay. Brazil alone exported about $80M worth of Yerba Mate in 2017.
Yaupon offers similar taste and benefits to not only other caffeinated ilex species, but to Camellia sinensis drinkers as well. Yaupon can contain 40-60mg of caffeine per cup, on par with tea and mate, and it contains less tannin than tea, which could serve as another benefit to consumers.
However, Yaupon's potential disruptive properties derive from its natural growing range, which is in the Southeast United States from East Texas to Florida and northwards to Virginia. Yaupon is endemic to the USA, and represents the native caffeinated plant species on the North American continent.
For thousands of years, Native Americans in the Southeast have consumed Yaupon as an herbal tea. It commanded reverence in the cultural framework of Native groups such as the Timucua of Florida, and Muskogee groups in other parts of the Southeast. Today, much of Yaupon's history as an important tea has been obscured by the ages. But several start-up ventures are now marketing Yaupon products and seeing success.
Companies like Yaupon Brothers American Tea, along with Lost Pines Yaupon, Cat Spring Yaupon, and Emerald Coast Tea Company, are offering bagged and loose Yaupon, which is available in grocery and specialty tea categories. Texana, based in Austin, has successfully entered the RTD category with a line of tantalizing blends. Local Leaf, also based in Austin, markets their RTD Yaupon in the Mate category. All of these companies have experienced substantial growth. Yaupon is already being exported from the United States to Canada, the EU, India, and Japan.
In October, several Yaupon suppliers met in Austin to found the American Yaupon Association, a non-profit organized to establish industry standards and a stable product pipeline. With new products arriving consistently, look for continued growth for Yaupon products in the USA and abroad.
~ Bryon White, Yaupon Brothers Tea
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BRYON WHITE is the CEO and Co-Founder of Yaupon Brothers American Tea, and a co-founder of the American Yaupon Association. Bryon has years of experience in ethnobotany, product development, and entrepreneurial leadership. Bryon lives in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, with his wife Megan.
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