Yaupon Holly, aka Cassina, or the less-appetizing Latin misnomer Ilex vomitoria (it does NOT cause vomiting) is the only caffeine containing plant native to North America. Yaupon is extremely common in Southeastern Coast of North America. Many have seen its distinguishing red berries in the winter, but few have realized the potential Yaupon has to make delicious caffeinated tea that many say tastes better than its cousin Yerba Mate. It's the perfect solution for those who want to reduce their dependence on commercially produced caffeinated beverages and save money at the same time!
The first step to brewing a hot cup of roasted Yaupon tea is the most important; you must correctly identify the leaves, otherwise you can have terrible tasting tea, or brew something that can potentially make you ill. Fortunately for us, Yaupon is very easy to identify. To be absolutely sure you can wait until the later fruiting seasons in the cold and identify the Yaupon by their red or sometimes yellow berries, but this is not the best time to harvest as the leaves are bitter. Alternatively you can pay attention to their unique leaf structure. Look for their small oval, scalloped leaves which alternate on the stem.
Yaupon Holly can be prepared a number of ways, freshly dried, roasted, or toasted. Here I will document the process for my favorite method of roasting for a rich, malty taste similar to Yerba Mate.
Comment your favorite Yaupon Holly preparation methods and tea recipies!
Cheers and Happy Growing