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Yaupon (pronounced yo-pawn) is a holly-type plant native to the Gulf Coast and further north. You’ve probably seen it all throughout Texas, possibly even in your own backyard. Left unchecked, most people consider it a vigorous weed. However, this tough-as-nails bush is changing the “tea” game. Abianne Falla of CatSpring Yaupon shared with us their story of how they came to discover this tenacious plant.
Back in 2011, drought swept across Texas like it had never been experienced before: centuries-old trees buckled, rivers and lakes evaporated, and many farmers and ranchers suffered greatly. In the midst of this horror, one plant continued to thrive on: the yaupon. The founders of CatSpring noticed this ubiquitous (at times, pesky) plant as one of the only survivors when most vegetation around it succumbed to the heat. What ensued was an interest in this remarkable plant that led to the foundation of CatSpring – the discovery of an ancient, indigenous tea made from the leaves of the yaupon holly.
From its inception, CatSpring has gone from strength to strength. They now have three signature preparations of this endemic leaf, and partner with several farms & ranches in the Cat Spring area of Texas to holistically manage the vigour of the yaupon, while simultaneously using the wild-harvested leaves for their perfectly sustainable, delicious infusions.
Long before CatSpring was stunned by this amazing and hardy plant, it’s benefits and consumption had been well known for centuries. Prior to the colonization of what is now the modern-day United States, the yaupon was an important medicinal and ritualistic beverage utilized by the Native Americans. Tribes including the Creek, Timucua, Chitimacha, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Apalachee, all used the yaupon as a core part of their everyday culture.
Taking into consideration the historical value that the yaupon had for many Native American peoples in the region prior to colonization, it’s somewhat surprising it’s taken so long for the plant to find its way back to our collective knowledge. Painful as it is, it serves as a reminder of the amount of endemic plant- and medicinal knowledge that has been lost alongside countless lives. Falla’s dedication to understanding the historical uses and cultural background of the yaupon shines through in her reverence for the plant and the product.
Yaupon: It’s Texan, For Tea
Does it sound daunting to drink a holly leaf? Well, although in the holly family, yaupon is more than what you find as decor around Christmas-time. It’s the only naturally caffeinated plant native to Texas, and it packs a myriad of health- and flavor benefits, too. Taste-wise, yaupon never goes bitter like “regular” tea does. As it doesn’t possess the same level of tannins, you never need to worry about overbrewing. What’s more, you can keep infusing those same tea leaves several times over.
Health-wise, yaupon is a no-brainer: its slow-release caffeine won’t make you jittery, and it is packed with antioxidants, among other great properties. Falla calls it a cousin of the yerba mate plant, already widely recognized as a healthful, caffeinated, and natural drink around the world. The yaupon contains saponins, which help to prevent absorption of fats for help with weight loss, boosts immune system, and helps regulate cholesterol levels. Polyphenols, flavanoids, and rutin are all present, too – amazing anti-inflammatory compounds with regenerative effects. Oh, and you know how chocolate makes give you that little boost of good mood? That comes from something called theobromine, also found in this wonder-all yaupon leaf. The only thing left to do is choose which yaupon tea is your favorite, and drink up the benefits.
An Homage to Texas: Marfa, Lost Maples, and Pedernales
You’ll find three primary “roasts” particular to CatSpring. Using ancient techniques, varying degrees of roasting the leaves highlights different aspects of the tea. Falla describes the process as intuitive: when working with the leaves, you wait for the right smell to get the right roast – and it comes with years of experience and know-how.
Their medium roast, Lost Maples, is smooth and mild, inspired by the namesake forest in Texas. Lost Maples transformative autumn color is picked up in this signature roast with subtle variations of caramel tones.
Marfa, CatSpring’s dark roast, is elegant and sophisticated, and reminiscent of black tea. It’s the perfect choice when mixing up a jug of delicious iced tea on a hot day. Check out Abianne’s favorite recipe for that ultimate thirst-quencher, below.
Finally, their “green tea” yaupon goes under the moniker Pedernales. Clean, refreshing, and never bitter, this gorgeous signature is the perfect zen pick-me-up when you’re looking for that detox feeling.
Alongside their main-stay signatures, they create special seasonal blends, like their holiday-spiced Deck the Hills. There’s bound to be one for every tea-taste, and if you’re not sure where to start, check out their variety packs.
CatSpring: Committed to the Cause
What’s truly remarkable is that CatSpring’s story is so unique: having brought the ingenuity, respect, and dedication of this plant to the forefront of something truly delicious and unique – going beyond the yaupon itself.
Falla details how CatSpring is committed to working directly with local farmers and ranchers in Texas, helping them to holistically manage their pastures, keeping the yaupon in check, and simultaneously wild-harvesting this truly remarkable plant. Put simply, it doesn’t get more sustainable than this.
Beyond this, though, CatSpring has integrated a commitment to working with ex-convicts in a bid to support the process of returning to normal life in society. Providing a crucial stepping stone for many, and even permanent employment for those that have been captured by the yaupon, too. CatSpring’s ability to view an enterprise, their enterprise, from this “big picture” angle makes for not only a product that’s worth buying, but a framework worthy of study for what truly regenerative businesses can look like.
During our interview with Falla and CatSpring, it became clear that knowledge is definitively imparted by how we consciously source, consume, and understand where our food comes from, and CatSpring is a shining example of just that.
CatSpring’s Cold Brewed Yaupon to Beat the Heat
- 3 bags of your favorite yaupon
- Freshly sliced ginger (to taste) (optional)
- Bunch of mint (optional)
Place all ingredients in a pitcher overnight – that’s it! The simples thirst-quencher on a hot day. You can play around with ingredients – add lemongrass, fruit, or any other herbs to your liking for a unique cold brew spin.