Argentinians drink it. Uraguayans drink it. Liters of this caffeinated, adaptogen-rich brew are sipped from gourds across South America, and the beverage is making serious inroads into North America. Its subtle smokiness makes this the mezcal of herbal teas.
Literally “little tree” in the language of the Catawba Indians, this is the only known caffeinated indigenous plant in North America, where it grows in the coastal Southeast. It was drunk by Native Americans of that region and traded at least as far away as the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia, near St. Louis. The lightly roasted Yaupon I sampled, from Texas-based CatSpring Tea was malty with hints of maple and a spicy finish.
A 1,500-year-old bundle of Guayusa leaves was found in a medicine man’s tomb in the Bolivian Andes, far beyond the plant’s range. It’s famed for providing a sustained and steady alertness, without the crash. Its flavor is grassy with a sweet, silky finish.
Ever since his grandfather put him to work squashing potato bugs and shoveling compost in a vast organic garden north of Philadelphia, Cedric has loved the outdoors. These days, he squashes bugs for his green-thumbed partner, Jen. His writing has appeared in Saveur, Cincinnati, This Old House, and Belt magazines. He is the Collector at the Mercantile Library Downtown.