Do you ever wish you could get a little dose of caffeine but you don’t like coffee and are bored with the same old teas? If you’re looking for something a little different as far as your caffeination requirements go, you may want to consider yerba maté, guayusa and yaupon.
Made from assorted species of the holly plant, these beverages have been enjoyed by indigenous peoples in South America and Central America and the lower US for thousands of years. In addition to caffeine, they all have lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids, so you can feel good about indulging in them.
The caffeine levels for these drinks typically are somewhere between those of green and black tea but below coffee. Many people find the energy boost they produce less jittery than coffee, even when comparable amounts of caffeine are consumed.
Yerba maté, guayusa and yaupon are sometimes roasted after harvesting, giving them deeper earthy, toasty, woody tones—something that might remind you a bit of a black tea. And sometimes they’re simply dried rather than roasted, resulting in flavors that are similar to green tea—grassy and almost spinachy rather than earthy.
Here are a few options if you’re interested in exploring these drinks…
• Yerba maté is a very popular traditional beverage in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and other parts of Central America and South America. It’s probably the caffeinated holly drink that is easiest to find in supermarkets and tea stores. Examples: Guayaki Traditional Organic Maté ($17.96 for 75 tea bags)…and Numi Maté Lemon, which combines yerba maté, green tea and lemon myrtle ($5.35 for 18 tea bags).
• Guayusa grows mainly in the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador. Examples: RUNA Organic Guayusa Tea ($19.98 for one pound of loose-leaf tea).
• Yaupon is made from the only caffeinated plant native to North America. The yaupon plant grows wild around the Gulf Coast. It has slightly more caffeine than the other beverages listed here, though still only about as much as a cup of black tea. Yaupon was regarded as an unwanted weed in modern times. It was only rediscovered as a beverage in the past decade when a small Texas company called CatSpring began harvesting, processing and selling wild yaupon. Examples: CatSpring Marfa Dark Roast Black Yaupon or Pedernales Green Yaupon (both $10.99 for 16 tea bags).