The Ilex Family


The Ilex Family

We are all familiar with the ubiquitous black, green and white teas. Their incredible popularity and immense history make the tea brewed from Camellia sinensis the world’s most consumed beverage. Aside from Camellia sinensis, there is a family of holly plants well-known for their caffeine buzz, healthful properties and energetic purposes.

https://www.nightwatchdrink.com/servlet/servlet.ImageServer?id=0153X000006XMU2QAO&oid=00D0X000000Nj3hUAC

We are all familiar with the ubiquitous black, green and white teas. Their incredible popularity and immense history make the tea brewed from Camellia sinensis the world’s most consumed beverage (after water of course!). Camellia sinensis is a species of evergreen shrubs or small trees in the flowering plant family Theaceae whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. Common names include "tea plant", "tea shrub", and "tea tree". C. sinensis var. sinensis and C. s. var. assamica are two major varieties grown today.

Aside from Camellia sinensis, there is a family of holly plants well-known for their caffeine buzz, healthful properties and energetic purposes. Many people think that the energizing teas all come from the same plant. Though, it is important to know this is not the case. They all come from a different plant. Yerba mate, guayusa, and yaupon are all members of the Ilex, or holly genus, which encompasses close to 500 different species across the globe. These holly berries are food for many animals, though almost always toxic to humans. Luckily, we can take advantage of the tasty caffeinated tea brewed from their leaves.

https://www.nightwatchdrink.com/servlet/servlet.ImageServer?id=0153X000006XMTTQA4&oid=00D0X000000Nj3hUAC
https://www.nightwatchdrink.com/servlet/servlet.ImageServer?id=0153X000006XMTiQAO&oid=00D0X000000Nj3hUAC

Though, these plants do share some similarities. Each one of these holly teas has a rich history of ceremonial use as a communal experience between tribal members in North and South America, each plant with its own unique rituals and mythology. Yerba mate is brewed in a gourd then shared by the community members by passing it around as they each drink. Guayusa is brewed in the mornings where members of the tribe share a drink and recall their dreams. One of the many names native North Americans used for yaupon was ‘white drink’, as it symbolized happiness, harmony, and purity.

Yerba mate is probably one of the more well-known of the three caffeinated holly plants and has been consumed by native South Americans for longer than recorded time. It has a full-bodied and characteristic green, grassy flavor.

https://www.nightwatchdrink.com/servlet/servlet.ImageServer?id=0153X000006XMTnQAO&oid=00D0X000000Nj3hUAC
https://www.nightwatchdrink.com/servlet/servlet.ImageServer?id=0153X000006XMTsQAO&oid=00D0X000000Nj3hUAC

Unlike yerba mate, guayusa does not create viable seeds and it has been propagated from plant cuttings for many years in the Amazon rainforest. A newly-planted branch of guayusa will take roughly 3 years before it is ready to be harvested. Guayusa has a smooth and mild flavor, and since it does not contain tannins, the brewed leaves won’t become bitter. In addition to caffeine, it contains theobromine (like dark chocolate).

Nightwatch’ organic guayusa is grown in forest habitats that help to support the balance of all flora and fauna (as opposed to being grown in a monoculture where all plant life is eradicated save for one commercial crop). Supporting the natural biodiversity of these growing areas helps maintain ecosystem vitality, attracts insects and animals, reduces the impact of deforestation, and maintains soil integrity. Sourcing our guayusa from growers who work in harmony with their environment is crucial to our mission as a company, as we recognize that respected and balanced ecosystems are critical to our planet’s health.

Yaupon tea is the North American cousin to these two holly teas. It grows naturally along the Southeast border of the United States, stretching from Texas to South Carolina. According to one conspiratorial myth, yaupon holly received the unpleasant species name of vomitoria in a bid to reduce its ability to compete with the East India Tea Company.

https://www.nightwatchdrink.com/servlet/servlet.ImageServer?id=0153X000006XMTxQAO&oid=00D0X000000Nj3hUAC
Fostered by
Nightwatch