As American As Apple Pie from CatSpring Tea

Yaupon, as a tea varietal, is entirely new to me, At first glance, it looks a lot more like a mate or a guayusa; flakes of greenish-brown leaf that put me in mind (albeit fleetingly) of fish food. Closer inspection reveals that they’re actually quite sizable chunks of (very shiny) tea leaves, although not as oxidized as I expected given that they’re referring to this as a “black” tea. Generously scattered among the leaves are cubes of dried apple, almond slivers, small pieces of beetroot, and cinnamon chips. Even dry, the scent is pretty amazing – spot-on apple pie spices!

Yaupon is the only caffeinated tea plant native to North America, and was used by Native Americans during male-only purification rituals. Despite a wane in popularity, CatSpring now farm  Yaupon sustainably on their family-owned land in Texas. They’ve also got sound ecological credentials, as they’re producing without the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or synthetic weed control.

I used 1.5 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 4 minutes in boiling water. The recommendation is 4-7, so it’s probable that this could be extended if that’s what you prefer, but I’d likely reduce to 1 tsp of leaf if I were brewing for over 4 minutes. The resulting liquor is a medium golden brown, with a distinctive orangey tint. The apple pie scent isn’t as strong once brewed, and there’s a light underlying dankness, like wet leaves in autumn. Once again, I’m reminded of guayusa.

As it turns out, there’s a reason for this. Rather than the usual Camellia Sinensis, Yaupon tea is actually produced from the dried leaves of Ilex Vomitoria, which is a species of holly. Yerba Mate (Ilex Paraguariensis) and Guayusa (Ilex Guayusa) are both closely related plants, and all contain high levels of caffeine and theobromine. The flavours of all three are, to me, rather similar. Dank, slightly vegetal, very reminiscent of forest floor. They’re not tea varieties I would typically look to drink often unflavoured, and they’re a bit of a change from “normal” black or green teas if they’re what you’re used to.

Fortunately for me, this blend is flavoured, and it’s flavouring that works well with the choice of base tea. The apple is floral rather than crisp and sharp, but it manages to conjure a delicious, slightly mushy, “baked” flavour that’s very suggestive of apple pie. The cinnamon adds the requisite spicing, and the almonds round things out with a slightly savoury, slightly creamy nuttiness. I wasn’t expecting to be able to taste the beetroot, but it’s there in the background and it adds an edge of sour tartness that brings the whole thing together nicely. All told, it really does taste like apple pie.

The base tea is slightly distracting, because it’s quite a strong flavour. At times, it almost feels like a fight between the Yaupon and the other ingredients to establish prominence. A longer brew time might have helped to increase the strength of the flavouring, but it might also increase the strength of the base tea, and I’m not convinced that would be a good thing here. Still, experimentation is everything, and I’ll probably adjust my parameters until I find a combination I’m happier with.

On the whole, I’d say it just about works. The Yaupon is a very “autumnal” flavour, to put it politely, and apple pie makes me think of autumn anyway so it’s not as jarring as it could have been (a strawberries and cream Yaupon blend would make me nervous, let’s say.) It’s a very smooth blend, with no bitterness or astringency, and the flavours come over clearly. Tasting this, you’d be in no doubt as to what it was supposed to replicate – it definitely lives up to its name! I’d drink this again, and I’d try more teas from CatSpring in the future. Their offering is definitely unique, and it’s nice that it has a strong family heritage – it’s the exact opposite of the more faceless bigger brands. I’ll be interested to see where CatSpring go from here.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black Yaupon
Where to Buy:  Cat Spring Tea

catspringteaDescription:

As American As Apple Pie is our comforting black yaupon tea loose leaf blend as delicious as a slice of apple pie. Take a trip to grandma’s kitchen with every cup.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Mango Party Coffee Leaf Tea from Wize Monkey

MangoPartyTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Coffee Leaf Tisane

Where to Buy: Wize Monkey

Tea Description:

Juicy mangoes all up in your boca!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The packaging of this one didn’t give much away – only the name (Mango Party), and the fact that it’s a test flavour. It’s a bagged tea, but in an unbleached, sizeable bag so there’s plenty of room for leaf expansion. No complaints there. I did a little digging around, and discovered that this is, in fact, a coffee leaf tea. This isn’t something I’ve ever tried before, so it piqued my interest straight off. From what I managed to find out, coffee leaf tea is pretty much exactly what you’d think – a herbal tea made from the shredded leaves of the coffee plant. It contains less caffeine than either tea or coffee, and is described as being similar in flavour to green tea. I added the bag to a cup of boiling water, and gave it 3 minutes. The resulting liquor is a medium golden-brown, and the scent immediately put me in mind of guayusa.

To taste, guayusa is again probably the best comparison I can come up with. It’s quite prominently earthy in the initial sip, but in a good way – anyone that enjoys guayusa would be quite at home here. The flavouring emerges in the mid sip, and adds a creamy, mildly peppery, mango flavour. It’s juicy and fruity, but it’s a little milder and more fleeting than I really would have liked. There’s maybe a second or two in the mid sip where I can really taste it, and then it’s gone and the earthiness returns. For those who were wondering – this doesn’t taste of coffee at all.

This was a new experience for me, and I’m going to say that I liked it. I’d seek out more coffee leaf teas on the strength of this one, that’s for sure. When a tea is flavoured, I like the flavour to be strong and prominent, so this one lost a couple of points for me there. The flavouring is nice, but it’s a little milder and more fleeting than I’d hoped – more of a mango flash than a mango party. Either way, it’s a pleasing, fruity cup with a lovely, smooth creaminess. Definitely worth a try if you’re a mango fan, or if you’ve not tried coffee leaf tea before and are looking for a new tea experience.

Jungle Ju Ju Guayusa from DAVIDsTEA

junglejujuTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Guayusa

Where to Buy: DAVIDsTEA

Tea Description:

Head for the Ju Ju Jungle, made with a guayusa herb and fruit blend that’ll make you feel like swinging from the vines and hanging from the trees. No wonder. Guayusa contains a combo of the natural stimulants also found in green tea and dark chocolate. People claim it protects you against snake bites, gives you courage, and helps you spiritually connect to nature. With its smooth flavour and natural buzz, we’ll just say it makes for a deliciously stimulating cup of tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Uh-oh.

So I picked up some of this a couple weeks ago ’cause I had sipped down Main Squeeze (also from DT), which has been a cupboard staple of mine for daily use a little over a year now, and I wanted to switch things up a little bit because drinking too much of the same thing can definitely get boring or begin to feel too routine. Well, I think I may have spent a year missing out because this was really, really good.

Overall I tend to prefer guayusa over mate; I like the wet, mossy, earthy flavour of guayusa a lot because it makes me think of petrichor so this tea already had that edge over Main Squeeze; dry it smells very fresh with a more raw, unrefined peach flavour. It’s not a soft, creamy peach: it’s peach fresh from the orchard with the skin and a bit of dirt. The papaya comes through in the scent as well, but it’s definitely not the focus despite the surplus of very large candied papaya pieces in the leaf.

And the taste was awesome; the guayusa was everything I could have asked it to be and the peach I got to experience in the dry smell translated perfectly into the taste. The papaya is stronger in the taste as well, and adds this lovely roundness to the flavour that highlights the peach, petrichor, and plush earthy notes as well as a tropical and exotic kind of vibe. And it tastes so fresh; it’s weird that it tastes both tropical and like it could’ve come fresh from a local orchard.

It’s sweet enough that I can’t ever see why you’d add anything to it but it’s still got a mellowness to it too. The mouthfeel was very full as well. I’m totally picturing myself drinking this on the walk to work and I think that’s an A+ idea. Really, I have zero complaints about this one other than my own idiocy for drinking it at 6PM and now being way too wide awake.

This could easily, and I predict will easily, make its way into my cupboard staples so long as it proves to provide a consistent brew. It’s not one of the fanciest/highest quality teas I own – but for every day drinking and that extra caffeine boost before going to work I think it’s perfect! Plus, it’s a totally fun summer kind of flavour!

Lime Cola Guayusa from Bluebird Tea Co.

lime_cola_guayusaTisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Guayusa

Where to Buy:  Bluebird Tea Co.

Tisane Description:

Energy boosting Guayusa tea is blended with cola nut and linden leaves in this lime and cola flavoured tea blend. Guayusa is another one of those Amazonian energy charged super plants and Linden leaves (Lime) has been used for centuries to treat colds, fevers and inflamation.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve had a guayusa tisane, so when I saw that Bluebird Tea Co. had this Lime Cola Guayusa, I knew it was something that I just had to try!

Guayusa is an herb that has a high caffeine content, so it’s one of those tisanes that you should consume earlier in the day so that you’re not overstimulated as the day comes to an end.  I find that after I’ve consumed a cup of Guayusa, I’m much more alert and energized!

This is a tasty blend.  I don’t know if I’m getting a true “Lime Cola” taste out of this, but it does taste good.  Guayusa tends to have a slightly coffee-esque taste to it, but its smoother and not bitter the way a cup of joe tends to be.  And I do get that thinned coffee taste from the Guayusa here.

Then I taste lime!  It’s a bright, uplifting flavor that elevates the cup.  I taste the citrus notes throughout the sip and well into the aftertaste where I’m getting a little tarty tingle on the tongue.

I do get a slight cola-like flavor and this is especially noticeable as the drink cools.  While the drink is hot, though, I could barely taste any cola notes at all.  This definitely tastes better chilled!

Even though I didn’t get as much “Lime Cola” taste as I thought I would based on the name of this tisane, I did really enjoy this.  I found it tasty and of course, invigorating!  A really tasty blend!

Winter Fire Guayusa Blend from Butiki Teas

winter fire guayusaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Guayusa

Where to Buy:  Butiki Teas

Tea Description:

Spice things up with our Winter Fire guayusa. We started out with a generous amount of cinnamon then ground up some whole chilies and added a touch of cayenne to our guayusa base. The result is a cinnamon flavor that packs some heat with a smooth molasses undertone. This guayusa works well without sugar; however, add a little sugar for a flavor that resembles red hot candy. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Wow!  This Winter Fire Guayusa Blend from Butiki Teas has got some SERIOUS kick to it!  I doubt anyone could accuse this tisane of wimping out – it brings the heat, and then turns it up … way up!  If this winter weather has left you feeling cold, just brew yourself a cup of this tisane and it will warm you right up!

But, as the description suggests, there is a smooth molasses undertone to it too.  Once your palate gets past that striking heat, there are some really delightful flavors to explore.

The fiery heat from the cayenne, chilies and cinnamon sort of mask the coffee-ish flavors of the guayusa at first, but as I continue to sip on this, I start to notice those coffee notes.  There is a sweet, molasses-like flavor to the cup as well.

The prominent flavors are – quite obviously – the spices of this tisane.  It’s a little jarring at first, just how spicy this is, but, once your mouth begins to get used to the heat, you’ll find you’re able to explore the other notes and you’ll find that there’s more to this than just the spice.

Those who can’t handle spicy-hot … this is not a tisane for you.  This is for those who like it hot!