CatSpring Yaupon was founded in 2013 by sisters Abianne Falla and JennaDee Detro in Cat Spring, Texas. During the historic 2011 drought, the sisters’ family-owned ranch was suffering major losses, from 100-year-old oak trees to hay fields.
The only thing that was able to weather the drought was Yaupon, the only naturally caffeinated plant native to North America. Detro began doing some research into the persistent plant and discovered a long history and legacy.
Although Yaupon has been used for thousands of years by indigineous communities for ceremonies, as a food and as a medicine, the plant disappeared for about 200 years. The exact reason Yaupon disappeared is still unknown, but many think early settlers had a role in its disappearance, making way for Eastern teas instead.
Abianne and JennaDee said they couldn’t believe no one was sharing such an incredible resource and sought to be part of Yaupon’s reemergence. Detro, who lives in Katy, Texas, began by experimenting with different blends of tea using Yaupon and sending the tea to Falla, who lived in Washington, D.C. at the time, to taste-test.
The original goal was to sell the tea at local farmers markets, but the business progressed into something much more. Today, the sisters have produced more than 100,000 cups of Yaupon tea and ship nationwide. The tea is also sold, hot or iced, at several high-profile restaurants in Austin, Texas.
“Like many Americans, our grandfathers on both sides grew up on farms yet the importance of local sourcing and small-scale agriculture was largely forgotten for the last few generations,” Falla said. “We’re honored to be part of returning to this legacy of respecting the land and sharing a delicious plant with many others.”
The wild Yaupon is harvested in Cat Spring, where it is prolific and makes up the majority of the undergrowth in the land. After that, it is either dried or roasted. Drying the Yaupon results in the green Yaupon tea, while roasting it creates the black Yaupon tea.
CatSpring Yaupon, which typically employs 7-11 people, has a focus on providing second chances for community members. According to the CatSpring website, “we [Detro and Falla] work directly with probation officers in rural communities to hire individuals who want their future to look different than their past. In our packaging facility, we hire women who have a history of generational poverty. By offering flexibility in our scheduling, we can help their next crisis not mark the end of their employment with us.”
The company also collaborates with Outstanding in the Field, a non-traditional restaurant experience that brings customers straight to the fields that the food on their menu was harvested on. Past menu items have included Yaupon hummus and roasted hog with Yaupon au jus.
The company has a commitment to sustainability and caring for the planet in its processes. All the Yaupon is wild grown and harvested locally. The only water used in the farming process is rain water, and each batch of Yaupon is hand-harvested to minimize impact on the land. CatSpring also prides itself on its recyclable, biodegradable packaging and collaboration with master gardeners, native grass specialists and conservations to create the best, most sustainable plan for harvesting in the area.
Falla and Detro said even though they aren’t Native, they understand the importance and history of Yaupon for Native people. When they first began their business, they sent samples to the Creek people in Florida to get feedback.
“They gave us tasting feedback on our preparation methods and generously performed blessings on our company,” Falla said.
Additionally, the company works with several cultural centers, such as the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Oklahoma, and museums. Falla said she and Detro are happy to work with SweetGrass Trading co. and respect the way the company works with its suppliers.
“It’s so important to us that we work with companies like SweetGrass who see Yaupon not only as a healthy, beneficial product but as the incredible plant that it is,” Falla said. “It’s important to share Yaupon with people who respect the legacy of the plant and value the traditions so many groups of people had with it – even if our teabags look a little different than the boiled leaves that were traditionally consumed.”
To learn more about CatSpring Yaupon, visit www.catspringtea.com.