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Yaupon Holly as a Coffee Substitute

February 1, 2014

DISCLAIMER:  Don’t believe anything I or anybody else tells you about edible wild plants.  Don’t eat edible wild plants based on what you see in a book or on the inter-net.  Get a qualified instructor to show you the plants, and don’t eat them until the instructor shows you how to prepare them, and then eats them him or herself.  Be aware that you may be allergic to a plant that someone else can eat without harm.  Be sure that any plants that you gather have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.

yaupon 09Coffee was a highly valued commodity on the American frontier, and it wasn’t always available.  Frontiersmen tried many different concoctions as substitutes for coffee.  Roasted and ground dandelion root was used.  Chicory root was widely used in the Southern United States, in fact it is common to add chicory to coffee in Louisiana even today.  I have read that some people even roasted and ground okra seeds to make a coffee substitute.  None of these taste much like coffee, and more importantly, none of them have any caffeine.  My old survival mentor was a caffeine freak.  He had to have his buzz.  So when we were having one of our living off the land outings he made a coffee substitute out of Yaupon Holly which he said was our only native plant in East Texas that contained caffeine.

 I don’t know for a fact that Yaupon is the only native plant with caffeine, but it does indeed have caffeine.  In fact it has more caffeine pound for pound than coffee.  Yaupon Holly is pretty easy to identify, especially in the winter when it is one of the few green shrubs in the forest.  Yaupon is a shrub.  I have rarely seen one that was over eight feet tall.  yaupon 01

It has small oval leaves that are about an inch to two inches long.  The leaves are lightly lobed along the edge and they grow in a random pattern along the branches.  They are not neatly opposite each other, or neatly alternating; they are just random.  yaupon 02

In the fall and early winter the female plants are covered with red berries.  Don’t eat the berries or get them mixed in with your tea leaves.

To prepare Yaupon Holly tea/coffee just pull a handful of leaves. yaupon 03

Put the leaves in an oven or a skillet (medium heat under the skillet) and roast them until they turn dark brown to black. yaupon 04

yaupon 05Let the leaves cool. yaupon 06

Then crush them coarsely and throw them into a pot with two or three cups of boiling water. yaupon 07

Leave them at a medium boil for about ten minutes.  Then pour the liquid through a cloth or a tea strainer to remove the leaves. yaupon 08

yaupon 09It doesn’t taste bad.  Not much like coffee, but not bad; and it definitely has a jolt of caffeine.  So if the real thing isn’t available, and you need your caffeine fix, give Yaupon Holly a try.

3 Comments
  1. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=03AJ8-CBjmE another drink you can get is birch tree juice in spring. Never done it, but had it as a child. Fresh tastes not so nice, has to be left to go sour then sugar added, caned, ready in few month.
    Just something to try if have those trees around.

  2. Chagga with some milk and sugar is as close as it gets.

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