Cat Spring Yaupon

Necessity was truly the mother of invention in Cat Spring, Texas, when the drought of 2011 forced ranchers to sell off cattle and watch as 100-year-old oak trees shriveled and died. Abianne Miller Falla and her sister, JennaDee Detro, did not take the losses lying down. Instead, they took a hard look at the plants that were thriving on their family’s property and began wondering how yaupon, a hardy, invasive plant, could be used. Imagine their surprise when they learned that yaupon, the only caffeinated plant native to the US, has a long history of uses as tea by Native Americans. The Cherokees called the yaupon “Our Beloved Tree” while others called it the “Black Drink.” The Karankawa, who lived in Texas, also harvested the yaupon for their use. Various tribes used the tea in ceremonies, for religion, or as a simple stimulant. Archaeological discoveries have placed yaupon residue in pottery as far north as Illinois.

The history of the yaupon does not stop there, however. Cabeza de Vaca, as well as later European immigrants, drank yaupon tea for its medicinal benefits. The tea was exported to Europe, but the practice was stopped in the 1800s, probably due to the East India Company’s desire for monopoly. Yaupon was reintroduced during both the Civil War and World War II when coffee and tea were in short supply, but its popularity died out once again. New research coming out of Texas A&M and the University of Florida played an important role as the sisters launched their company, Cat Spring Yaupon. They began selling at farmers’ markets and used customers to conduct research by offering free samples if visitors would provide feedback on their favorites. Falla explained, “We experimented with different preparations and used the survey results to help us determine the best drying methods. ”Harvesting is still by hand and is labor intensive. “We work with different landowners to harvest leaves for our tea and to keep their yaupon in check,” explains Falla. “We are certified organic. Nothing touches these leaves but sunshine and rainwater.”
Cat Spring Yaupon began marketing to locally sourced restaurants in Austin and now has four types of teas available online: Marfa Dark Roast, Lost Maples Medium Roast, Pedernales Green Yaupon and the seasonal Deck the Hills Holiday Blend. (All of their teas are 100% yaupon. The differences result from the preparation methods.) Their company has continued to grow. Cat Spring Yaupon now has eight employees and has just moved into a historic blacksmith shop in Cat Spring that their landlord built out for them.. (The building brings even more history to the Cat Spring Yaupon story. It was built by one of Stephen F. Austin’s original 300 settlers.)
Travelers will have a great reason to visit Cat Spring when the threat of the pandemic passes. The showroom will feature tastings of their teas so visitors can choose for themselves which is their favorite. Until that time, those thirsty for a new taste of tea can order online at

Candace Ahlfinger has loved traveling since she was little and has always been on the go whenever possible. Now she is retired and gets to do what she loves best… TRAVEL! Whether it’s traveling with her wonderful husband, or our children and grandchildren, traveling is a great experience that enriches her life. Because she always enjoys reading and hearing about others’ travel experiences, she wants to share her travels with the Ellis DownHome readers. 


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