Cat Spring Tea launches with two kinds of yaupon tea
Abianne Miller and JennaDee Detro are reintroducing Texans to the only truly local source of caffeine in America.
Yaupon, an evergreen that grows throughout the South, as well as in Central and East Texas, is the only plant with caffeine indigenous to North America, and the tea made from its leaves has a pleasant, earthy taste similar to green tea and yerba mate, the popular South American drink made from a plant that is also in the holly family.
When the sisters discovered that they could make tea from the leaves of a native shrub that grows prolifically on their family’s land between Austin and Houston, they decided to turn it into a business.
After six months of tweaking the harvesting and preparation methods, Miller, who lives in Austin, and her sister, a Houstonian, launched Cat Spring Tea, named for the area in Austin County where they harvest the leaves.
Traditional black and green teas are made with leaves from Camellia sinensis, a plant that is not native to the Americas, and most of the tea consumed in the world is grown in China and India. (There are a few tea farms in North Carolina, and though there are coffee growers in Hawaii and Mexico, the plant wasn’t introduced there until in the 1800s.)
Native Americans and early settlers drank yaupon tea for centuries before the popularity of English-style teas and coffees spread throughout the country.
Yaupon is a hardy plant that doesn’t require any additional fertilizers, pesticides or even water to thrive in Texas, Miller says, and researchers in Florida have found that yaupon tea has almost as many antioxidants as blueberries.
(A note: Although the scientific name of yaupon is Ilex vomitoria, yaupon leaves are not hallucinogenic or poisonous, but the bright red berries can cause nausea if ingested.)
Miller says that one of the most fulfilling parts of starting the company has been being able to hire employees to harvest the leaves from several organizations that connect employers with workers who are in vulnuerable situations, such as homelessness or transitioning out of correctional facilities.
Miller says that though she hears from people who still make and drink yaupon tea, there are very few companies selling it commercially. The Florida-based Yaupon Asi Tea (yauponasitea.com) recently brought its product to the Fancy Food Show in New York City, and Texas Yaupon Tea (texasyaupontea.com), based in the Bastrop area, is available at several outlets in Wimberley, including the Leaning Pear, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Cat Spring sells two kinds of teas: a roasted “black” tea and an unroasted green version, and you can buy them (starting at $9.95 for 10 teabags) at catspringtea.com, Hillside Farmacy and In.gredients. You also can order the products through Farmhouse Delivery (farmhousedelivery.com), and other tea shops, restaurants and retailers will be carrying them in coming weeks.
Even though I’m not a fan of traditional yerba mate, I really enjoyed the Cat Spring roasted tea. The green tea was good, too, but the slightly nutty flavor of the roasted version had me raving to colleagues.
A lesson learned, though: When making the tea, don’t let the leaves steep for too long. The directions suggest two to five minutes, but I’d start sipping at a minute and then pull the tea bag or leaves out when the tea reaches desired intensity.
Make your own coffee soda with cold-brewed coffee, Topo Chico
Given the explosion in popularity of cold coffee concentrate and iced coffee beverages, it’s surprising that there aren’t more options around for coffee soda or at least some sort of carbonated coffee beverage. Sure, there’s Manhattan Special Pure Espresso Coffee Soda, but it can be hard to find. So it was something of a revelation to combine cold coffee concentrate (in this case, from Buzz Mill) with something that can be found all over Austin: Topo Chico.
The recipe I use is one part concentrate to one part Topo Chico: It’s that simple. Sweeten to taste (I drink mine unsweetened). Obviously, you can adjust the percentages of concentrate and Topo Chico based on just how much of a kick you want, but the result is cold, refreshing and caffeinated, the coffee dialing down the intensity of Topo Chico carbonation, the Topo Chico diluting the often-intense concentrate.
— Joe Gross
NEW FOOD COMPANY
New food trailer Peasy sells kits to help get dinner on the table fast
Megan Clark is hoping to help home cooks (and even those who don’t consider themselves cooks) solve the problem of what to make on the nights when they just don’t feel like cooking from scratch.
Her new company, Peasy, provides meal kits with already chopped vegetables, pre-measured ingredients and par-cooked proteins that make it easy to put together a dinner in just a few steps.
From 3 to 7 p.m. each weekday, Clark sells the kits out of a brightly colored trailer at the southeast corner of 45th Street and Burnet Road, next to the Rosedale Market.
This week, she’s selling kits for chicken paprikash with lemony tabbouleh. Next week, it’s sausage and vegetable stew with crusty French bread, followed by chicken chilaquiles verdes with smashed black beans Aug. 12 through 16. Some of the recipes are Clark’s, but others come from Jesse DeLeon, sous chef of Vespaio. Clark works with local farmers and ranchers when possible, and last week’s meal that I tried featured calabrese sausage from Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.
The meals, which cost $21.99 to $26.99 for two to three servings and $36.99 to $39.99 for four to six servings, take 30 minutes or less to prepare, and Clark’s easy-to-follow recipes also include tips, such as how to season the dish as you cook rather than at the end.
Customers can just drop by the trailer to buy a kit, but you can also go to peasymeals.com to order ahead of time and find out more information, including the upcoming meal calendar.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch and author of the 2012 book “Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America,” will talk about the growing corporatization of the food chain at the Manchaca Road Branch of the Austin Public Library, 5500 Manchaca Road, at 7 p.m. Aug. 7. The event is free and open to the public, and you can find out more about the book at foodopoly.org.