Usually, I use this space to groan about local politics and unmitigated growth. But this month, I’ve been given the green light to shamelessly plug my business – yay!
So, I’ll start with two questions. 1. Do you drink tea? 2. Do you know where your tea comes from? If you do drink tea, you aren’t alone. One hundred fifty seven million Americans drink tea every day, and 99.9 percent of that tea is imported from overseas; mostly from Asia. The reason so much tea (and I’m talking about the tea plant, camellia sinensis) is imported, is because it’s nearly impossible to grow quality tea in the continental United States. The climate and growing conditions just aren’t quite right.
But conditions are perfect in Florida for growing another tea plant, called yaupon. Yaupon is a Florida-native plant species in the holly family, and it is the only plant species on the North American continent that contains caffeine in its leaves. Yaupon is also rich in healthy antioxidants, and it tastes great, too. Native Americans consumed yaupon for thousands of years, but it became an obscurity after the decline of native populations.
In 2012, my brother Kyle and I decided it was high time that yaupon tea was introduced into commerce. Since then, we’ve been plugging away to make yaupon an important agricultural commodity in Florida, and today, you can buy our yaupon teas in over 80 stores in the USA, and over 30 in the UK and Ireland, and all of that tea is grown, processed, packed and distributed right here in Volusia County.
Beginning in 2018, we started working with the University of Florida/IFAS to promote yaupon as a specialty crop for Florida farmers. Since yaupon is native, it doesn’t require the same chemicals and irrigation other crops need to survive. This means that yaupon crops can be successful without damaging the environment or putting a big dent in a farmer’s checkbook. This comes at a time when Florida’s citrus industry is reeling from an incurable greening disease that has put over 70,000 jobs and an $8 billion industry at risk. We don’t claim that yaupon can fix all of Florida’s agricultural problems, but it can help! And you can help too, all you have to do is #DrinkYaupon.
Bryon White is the CEO of Yaupon Brothers LLC, an agribusiness firm located in Edgewater. Yaupon Brothers owns and manages twelve acres of certified organic Yaupon in New Smyrna Beach. Yaupon Brothers products can be purchased locally at Island Roasters, Beachside Candy, Health’s Natural Foods, Spice House NSB, Magpie’s Modern General Store, Sugar Works Distillery, GoJuice, and Hottie Coffee. Yaupon Brothers is at the NSB Farmers Market every Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon, and products can also be purchased at YauponBrothers.com.