Like Game of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister, yaupon is a complicated villain. A native Texas holly, it’s grown out of control in the Piney Woods near Bastrop ever since the devastating fire of 2011—choking out new pines while increasing the chances of another conflagration, and further endangering the Houston toads that are trying to make a comeback. On the other hand, yaupon also happens to be America’s only native caffeine-generating plant—long used by Gulf Coast Native Americans to brew a smooth, sweet, energizing tea. See the business model yet? The area’s property owners are more than happy to let Lost Pines Yaupon Tea rip out their yaupon and make it into a drink—turning the scourge into a boon. “The trees and frogs and property owners get help and we get caffeinated tea,” says Heidi Wachter, a co-founder of the company.
Wachter and friends Jason Ellis and John Seibold launched Lost Pines in 2015; each of them convinced that eco-aware consumers couldn’t resist a sustainable tea plucked from Austin’s backyard. But this isn’t just a drink to feel smug about. Yaupon tea doesn’t turn bitter like regular tea (“People ask us if we’ve added sugar,” says Ellis), and though it may not have as much caffeine as tea, its high levels of theobromine (think: dark chocolate) bestow a more focused, long-lasting buzz without causing the jitters. It’s also full of antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties and, as a plant growing all too well on its own without chemical help, it’s bonafide organic.
The Lost Pines team prepares the leaves in both light and dark roasts out of an industrial kitchen. They sell it loose-leaf and in steeping bags at the SFC Farmers’ Market in Sunset Valley and at the HOPE Farmers Market, at spots such as Counter Culture Café and Bouldin Creek Café and online. Down the road, the friends want to sell powdered and bottled versions of the tea, as well as a yaupon kombucha. But for now, customers can press, steep, sun-brew or cold-brew the versatile leaf with equal results. “It’s hard to screw up,” says Ellis.
By Steve Wilson.
For more information, visit lostpinesyaupontea.com or call 512-748-4546.