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Yaupon Holly

All of our teas center around Yaupon Holly, a plant native to the Southeast United States; it is the only naturally caffeinated plant in North America. Yaupon tea has over 8,000 years of consumption (twice as old as Chinese teas), but in the 1700s saw a rapid decline, as European settlers preferred coffee and other imported teas over Yaupon. In recent times, there has been a resurgence of interest in Yaupon tea, driven by its unique taste, natural caffeine content, and health benefits. Here at Rise Yaupon, we are working to revive its rich history and celebrate its cultural significance.

A Rich History

Yaupon Holly tea has also been known as "Cassine", "Native American tea", "South Sea Tea" and even "Appalachian tea".
The Yaupon Holly was highly valued by Native American tribes, such as the Creek, Cherokee, and Seminole, for its medicinal properties and stimulating effects. The leaves and stems of the plant contain caffeine, theobromine, and other antioxidants, which were used to create a nourishing and invigorating drink that early explorers referred to as "The Black Drink".

The Black Drink

Historically, Yaupon tea was consumed during purification ceremonies, that early Spanish explorers dubbed the "Black Drink" ritual, due to the dark color of the brewed leaves. The tea was consumed in large quantities to induce vomiting, cleansing the body and spirit in preparation for major tribal events, such as diplomatic councils, important hunts or before entering battles. The plant itself does NOT possess emetic properties; the vomiting effect was induced by consuming copious amounts of the tea rapidly.

Rise Yaupon, Inc.

We are putting our values first. Making great-tasting tea is what we do, but HOW we do it matters. The team at Rise Yaupon is driven by empowering people in our community and every purchase you make helps us give back more and more.

The Team Behind the Tea.

Meet the people that make Rise Yaupon possible.

President and Co-Founder

Shelly Steele

Shelly left the corporate world for tea in 2020. She initially helped one of the first Yaupon producers grow into an industry-leading brand before deciding to take the leap into entrepreneurship herself (with family in tow). She is one of the founding members of Rise Yaupon and is passionate about fostering a positive workplace culture and providing opportunity in the community.


Mark Steele

Mark has been involved in Yaupon since 2015 and is responsible for developing the processing techniques used by many in the yaupon space. He is a US Air Force veteran, retired airline captain, rockin' drummer, master inventor and our tea patriarch.


Mary Steele

Mary is in a lot of ways the heart and soul of Rise Yaupon. She has been behind the scenes of yaupon tea with Mark since 2015. She is a retired Speech Pathologist but now she supports all aspects of Rise. Eager to jump in and help with anything, she's our tea matriarch and keeps everything running including keeping the team on their toes.

Founder and VP of Farming

Angela TenBroeck

Angela's positivity is infectious and you can't help but be awed by all the things she is leading. She is championing a farm program in the Mississippi Delta that teaches formerly incarcerated women how to be successful in agriculture and gives BIPOC farmers yaupon as a cover crop and way to maximize the output from their farms. Click to learn more about her work. Her Aquaponics facility serves as the first processing stage for tea leaves for Rise Yaupon. Angela constantly looks for ways to empower local farmers - including helping Rise source ingredients grown locally.

Medical Contributor

Lindy Steele

Dr. Steele is a Family Practice M.D. who is passionate about using food (and tea) as medicine. She weighs in and helps us develop blends that are truly health conscious and translates the medical studies of yaupon so that we can all easily understand the benefits of this amazing tea.