A Lovely Cup of Tea

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Today’s friend that you need to know about is JennaDee Detro.  In addition to being a fabulous mother, darling friend and a talented photographer, she’s now launched a family company that produces tea right here in Texas!  She’s a really fun girl and I just know you’re going to love her, so without further adieu, here is JennaDee…

I’ve known Andrea for years, having both grown up in Houston.  We chatted often about running our own small businesses (her amazing jewelry and my photography company – studiodetro.com) and later corresponded via email about full time motherhood and small business ownership.  Not surprisingly, I’ve met some fabulous clients and friends compliments of Andrea’s amazing networking skills.  

Andrea and I both have very supportive families!  I know she loves how much her sweet mom helps her with her business and her babies!  Recently, my family rallied around a new business opportunity.

We love to spend time together at our family’s property between Austin and Houston. Last year, during my daughter’s nap time, I decided to utilize our newly installed internet access to research the plants at the ranch.  We quickly discovered that yaupon, a native understory tree, had been a special drink for Native American ceremonies as well as considered a daily source of energy.

“This stuff?! Really?!”, we thought as we researched preparation methods.

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 started playing around with different ways to prepare the tea – 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.

My sister, Abianne Miller, and I have launched Cat Spring Tea together.  We are honored and delighted to see our family pull together to build this company.  It’s a completely vertical enterprise – we harvest, we transport, we manufacture, and we ship.  Oh, and we are also marketing a new product category: a caffeinated tea that is grown natively in the United States!  We are also learning how to work with individuals in need of second chance employment opportunities.  Abianne and I could not do it alone; our sister and our mom and the three men in our lives afford us great encouragement and deep resources.

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 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

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