Yaupon: climate-friendly caffeine touted “crop of the future”

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

Yaupon: climate-friendly caffeine touted “crop of the future”

Related tags Tea Caffeine functional beverage adaptogen Polyphenols

The climate-resilient Yaupon crop, with leaves rich in theobromine, polyphenols, and 30% less caffeine than coffee, has been growing in popularity for use within holistic health-promoting beverages.

Yaupon tea has been reported to provide a balanced energy boost, without the adverse side-effects commonly associated with coffee consumption.

It was recently predicted​ by Mintel to be a major 2023 trend for the industry, meeting demands for lower-caffeine alternative drinks, as well as sustainability concerns.

The naturally caffeinated Yaupon leaves are tannin-free, reducing the bitter taste and nutrient-binding effects associated with other traditional breakfast teas, with tannins recognised​ as a significant barrier for iron absorption, which may contribute to deficiencies.

The tea enjoyed early popularity amongst indigenous people and early American settlers, hailed for its benefits for the mind and body due to its apoptogenic properties, however its presence was largely forgotten for many years.

But Bryon White, founder of Yaupon brothers which sells a range of Yaupon teas across the US and UK, tells NutraIngredients it’s enjoying a resurgence.

“Yaupon is really growing as a category, and was selected as a top-10 global food trend by Whole Foods Market for 2023.

“We have been on-shelf at Whole Foods for more than two years, and we are currently selling around 50,000 lbs of Yaupon per year, up from zero ten years ago. So essentially this has become a small industry in less than a decade,” he emphasises.

Sustainable health

White describes the tea as a “jitter-free energy boost without the crash”; an outcome attributed to the balance of caffeine and theobromine compounds within the Yaupon leaves. Research​ has attributed this phenomenon to the protective effect of theobromine for cognitive function, through the regulation of neurotransmitter signalling.

“Yaupon's energizing properties have been known for millennia, as it has been used continuously by indigenous people as a health promoting drink and sacrament for at least 8,000 years,” says White.

He draws attention to studies​ noting that the high quantities of polyphenolic compounds within Yaupon have demonstrated significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

 “Consumers are more experimental with their beverages and more willing to try new things. They are also making purchases based on their personal values, which often include supporting brands that are environmentally conscious.”

“Yaupon is incredibly resilient. In the horticultural field, the tree has been long admired for its durability and hardiness. Yaupon is heat and drought resistant, and also resists sub-freezing temps.”

White emphasises its low water demand and ability to resist pests and disease, whilst providing an important food source for pollinators and wildlife.

“We believe Yaupon is the crop for the future of agriculture in the Americas and beyond.”

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