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.
For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/11/lost-pines-yaupon-tea-dark-roast-yaupon.html