Sisters, Abianne Miller Falla and JennaDee Miller Detro, have launched Cat Spring Tea together. It’s a completely vertical enterprise – we harvest, we transport, we manufacture, and we ship. Oh, and we are also marketing an entirely new product category: a caffeinated tea that is grown natively in the United States called yaupon tea. We are also learning how to work with individuals in need of second chance employment opportunities. We are honored and delighted to see our family pull together to build this company. Abianne and I could not attempt this alone; our sister, our mom, and the three men in our lives afford us great encouragement and lots of man hours!
Yaupon has been a thorn in the side for most farmers and ranchers (including our dad) in our area of Texas; calling it a “tenacious weed” is putting it mildly. We discovered that yaupon, this native understory tree, had been a special drink for Native American ceremonies as well as considered a daily source of energy.
We started playing around with different ways to prepare the tea in 2012 – we borrowed from eastern tea practices, researched how different Native American tribes consumed the beverage, and were informed by South American yerba mate preparation; we ran a gamut of taste tests! Americans from New York to Hawaii, already on the lookout for yaupon tea, contacted us to participate as we developed our tea preparation methods.
Through this process, we’ve discovered that yaupon tea is rich in caffeine at an octane higher than tea and slightly less than coffee. And the even better news? It offers theobromine – the same caffeine that’s in dark chocolate – so it provides a “jitter free” energy boost. It also contains antioxidants galore. While we’ve not yet tested our specific tea, research at the University of Florida compare the content potential to that of blueberries! And research at Texas A&M indicates that the leaves possess anti-inflammatory and chemo-preventative properties as tested in human colon cells. Pretty heady news for a humble plant that’s routinely bulldozed and burned to control its growth.
The historical legacy that we’ve discovered has been astounding. Yaupon has been thriving for many centuries in the United States, although we seem to have only recently “discovered” the enjoyable yaupon tea. Essentially, Native Americans benefited from yaupon tea, and we moderns forgot about it.
Widespread consumption dating back before A.D. 1050 along the Mississippi River has recently been confirmed by archaeological research. 17th century records are replete with trade agreements, cultivation, and preparation methods of yaupon tea among the native people and the Spanish explorers, missions and outposts. Yaupon tea was exported to France by the name “Appalachina” and to England by the name “Cassina.”
Along with colonization, coffee and Asian tea imports increased in the United States. Serving imported tea came to be considered an act of high
society and misunderstanding about the Native American ceremonial use of yaupon tea was widely circulated.
Recommended as a commercial crop in 1919 and 2009 in Journal of Economic Botany articles, yaupon tea was an imported tea and coffee substitute during American Civil War blockades. Yaupon tea was later promoted in a United States Department of Agriculture study to counter the caffeine shortage and promote the World War II effort. Who knew we were literally surrounded by such unappreciated resources with quite a history?!
America could rediscover yaupon tea. Alongside the opportunity to give these Texas tea trees a second chance, we desire to resource the largely untapped workforce of Texans struggling with the effects of poverty. Our goal is to offer second chance employment through our harvesting and tea manufacturing work – right now it’s all done by hand! We have come to deeply appreciate the organizations and their members who support these brave individuals as they radically change their lives. We’ve learned that there are few “first rung” job opportunities on the corporate ladder from poverty to middle class jobs. Could our young tea company provide more life changing opportunities? We hope to find out!
We’d love to share our yaupon tea with you whether you’re looking for an alternative source for caffeine or are curious about this forgotten resource. Please, visit us at www.catspringtea.com