What’s the Deal with Yaupon?


By now you may or may not have heard of the new superdrink that’s becoming more and more popular across America. Yaupon, a holly bush native to Southeastern America, is the only caffeinated plant native to North America. Whole Foods recently named this indigenous drink as one of the hottest trends for 2023. Let’s see what all the fuss is about.

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Origin Story

Yaupon, whose botanical name is Ilex Vomitoria, is endemic to the Southern region of the United States, found particularly in the coastal areas of Mississippi, Alabama, and Northern Florida. The plant has a long history; it has been consumed for thousands of years but fell to some controversy. Prior to the British East India Company (EIC) coming to the colonies, yaupon’s botanical name was Ilex Cassine, and was traded prosperously to other regions of Europe.

Yaupon, unlike it traditional black tea, is naturally sweet, so requires no added sugar. The EIC, who traded both tea and sugar, weren’t fans of this newcomer and conveniently, British botanist and horticulturist William Anton, changed its name to Ilex Vomitoria, resulting in the myth that yaupon induces vomiting. Don’t
let these myths fool you; both regular users and scientific analysis confirm this is not the case.

Yaupon is also commonly referred to as:

• Cassina
• Black drink
• Carolina tea
• Appalachian tea


Similar to tea, yaupon, which is related to plants like yerba maté and guayasa, has many health benefits and contains molecules like theobromine, the pleasure molecule found in dark chocolate; L-Theanine, a common stress reducer; and theophylline, which allows both the theobromine and caffeine to work more

Historically, yaupon was used for everything from regulating menstrual cycles to purifying water. Today, yaupon’s antioxidant-rich benefits include increased
energy levels, improved brain function, and reduced inflammation. Perhaps best of all, thanks to its ingredients, consumers won’t be victims of the dreaded
coffee crash with yaupon. Plus, the plant is free of tannic acids, meaning you cannot over-steep yaupon like you can a tea.


Right now, yaupon is primed to have its moment. Lately, consumers have been seeking alternative caffeine drinks to coffee—just look to the increasing popularity of
mushroom coffee, matcha, golden milk, and yerba maté as proof.

Oliver Luckett, co-founder of Ilex Organics (pictured above), which owns both Yaupon Brothers and Yazoo Yaupon, believes a number of factors account for the
plant’s new resurgence. “Global supply chain fragility, US economic health in rural areas, sourcing locally, tea consumption, the health benefits, the natural sweetness due to lack of tannins, the unique story—all of these trends are contributing to the rise of yaupon,” he tells us. His partner, Scott Guinn, puts it simply: People want to live healthier lives post pandemic.


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