Lost Pines Yaupon TeaEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
Here’s Hoping Teabox – Round Six – Tea #34
I sipped this one a number of days ago but forgot to write a tasting note. I expected this to be like guayusa but either I used too many leaves or the water was too hot, resulting in a bitter brew. Definitely try this one, teaboxers, but treat it like a green tea with cooler water! It’s my fault though and not the tea.
I picked up a bag of this at the Houston Tea Festival last weekend. It reminds me of yellow tea, or maybe nettle leaf with more of a caffeine kick. This light roast is toasty, grassy, and tastes like sweet hay. A bit of a nutty caramel aftertaste at the end too. I think there might be too much caffeine for me, but I might try blending this with nettle, hojicha, or maybe cinnamon.
Flavors: Caramel, Grass, Hot hay, Toasted
Remember how I somewhat recently reviewed a Roasted Yaupon? In that post I talked about the coolness that is the plant Ilex vomitoria, and I hinted at how in my next review of a Yaupon I would talk about the coolness that is its cultural history. Well I am finally getting around to it! Yaupon is an old drink, known as Asi or Black Drink, many Native American tribes used it as part of a purification ritual or before meetings (turns out caffeine makes for an alert brain) and it was slurped out of elegantly carved shells. But why, you might ask, is there vomit in its name…well, it was used in a purification ritual that sometimes (but not always) meant time to barf. It is up to a bit of historic debate as to whether or not other emetic herbs were added to the Asi or if the vomiting came from the huge amounts that were drunk, either way drinking a cup here and there luckily won’t make you hug the ivory throne (yay!) I think the most fascinating to me thing is several of the tribes that used Asi did not live in its native area and had to have it imported.
Really I could go on…a lot…Yaupon is a fascinating plant with a diverse history, I highly recommend at the very least reading the Wikipedia article on it. Since last look was at Lost Pines Yaupon Tea’s Dark Roast, now it is time for their Light Roast Yaupon Tea! Without the strong toasty notes of the previous Yaupon, this one I can really smell the greenness of the plant, which is pretty fun. Strong notes of holly leaves, boxwood leaves, hemp, spinach, hay, and turnip greens. It has a sharpness to it, sharp and green with underlying faintly sweet hint of fresh growth.
The aroma of the wet leaves (that are so fun to watch floating on top of the liquid) is sharp and subtly sweet, with notes of cut grass, holly leaves, boxwood leaves and spinach. There is also a distinct hint of turnip root and parsnip at the finish which I find immensely entertaining. The liquid has a real herbaceous tone to it, with sharp notes of hops and thyme mixed with hemp, spinach, and parsnip roots. It has a very delicate sweetness at the finish, but mostly the notes are green and fresh.
Yaupon is a strange tasting plant, that is something I will definitely say about it. Strange does not mean bad though, it just means describing this cup is kinda hard, it starts with an herbaceous sharpness, akin to holly leaves (which totally makes sense) and hops, with a slight bitterness like hops. This moves to cut grass and resinous sap with crushed boxwood, hemp, and spinach. The finish is sweet and uncannily like cooked parsnip and turnip roots, this lingers for quite some time. I find that if you let the cup cool most of the hop like bitterness fades and it is crisp, green, and slightly sweet.
Instead of my usual ‘here is what I have been up to today’ intro, I am going to dive straight into the tea, with a bit of history and botany! I am finally looking at some Yaupon, but before I do I want to talk about what it actually is. Ilex vomitoria, a member of the Holly family that also has Yerba Mate and Guayusa, however this version is fancy because it is the only native source of caffeine in the states. Grown in the South, this beautiful shrub shows up quite frequently growing wild and as ornamentation, in fact living in Georgia we used to grow the stuff. Sadly I was a youngin’ and was unaware of its use as a tea, though I can certainly say the smell of it is immensely familiar. Now before I go much farther, let’s take a look at that name, vomitoria…usually when a plant has something along that line in its name it means you will become best friends with your toilet (looking at you Russula emetica) but in this case, it was a misunderstanding. Used as one of the ingredients in Asi (or Black Drink) a ritual drink by the men of several Native American tribes that causes a lot of vomiting, it was assumed that the Yaupon was the cause of this, but clearly that is not the case.
Since I have two different Yaupons to review, I will save the history lesson (which is all sorts of awesome) for the next one, but now that you know what the plant is, that means it is time to taste the Lost Pines Yaupon Tea Dark Roast Yaupon Tea! The aroma of the finely chopped up leaves is something else, it blends cooked spinach, hemp, toast, holly leaves, olive leaves, boxwood leaves, bark, green beans…it is a complex pile of notes! It blends green leafy almost herbaceous tones with sweet roasted ones. I know this smell, recognized it immediately, but it was odd to smell it roasted, odd and comforting.
Brewing time! The aroma of the wet leaves (which float on the top of my brewing apparatus, which amuses me) is a blend of toasted sweetness and herbaceous green. Notes of cooked spinach and hemp blend with artichoke and holly leaves. It has a sharp quality, green and slightly resinous. The liquid sans leaves is a blend of toasted grains, dry fluffy loam, wet hay, and a touch of spinach…and lots of hemp. Fresh hemp twine with that distinct sharpness and earthiness.
I found the taste of this brew incredibly hard to describe, it has an acrid bitterness that is not necessarily unpleasant (like eating an unripe persimmon, THAT is unpleasant) it is very sharp without being mouth drying…after thinking and sipping, I realized I was actually tasting caffeine, I know this because when I was in school I just took caffeine supplements, and that taste lingered in my memory. After that initial acrid sharpness (that also reminds me of chewing on European holly leaves, I was a weird kid that needed to taste everything, this is also why I became obsessed with plant based toxicology) it fades to sweetness, blending herbaceous green notes, honey, cooked spinach, and distinct toasted barley. Yaupon is one of the more strange tasting herbal brews I have sipped, I can see how this was a ceremonial drink at one point…it has an unusual taste blended with a kick to the face of caffeine, I imagine drinking a ton of this in a ceremonial environment being quite the fascinating experience.