A little more than 60 miles northwest of Houston and a little more than 110 miles southeast of Austin – or, in Texas-speak, a “short drive” – is the sweet little town of Cat Spring. On the edge of the Texas Hill Country, where wildflowers run riot and traditions run deep, Cat Spring is home to vintage storefronts that yield treasured antiques and hand-crafted products – a rich blend of both old and new. One of those products is, to our great delight, a new old product – indigenous yaupon tea from Cat Spring Tea.
Sisters Abianne Miller and JennaDee Detro are the founders of Cat Spring Tea, and the two bring together the best of all Texas worlds. Abianne lives in Austin; JennaDee lives in Houston, and more or less in the middle is Cat Spring Tea, which they started in 2013. Why tea?
Part of it has to do with putting people to work, which is outstanding, and part of it has to do with resurrecting a lost art and a lost product.
Cat Spring Tea, Abiannne says, was “born of our desire to rediscover the lost American resources of yaupon tea and underserved Texans.”
Abianne says, “This is an entirely new product category for the U.S. – well, at least in the last 300 years! So we are inventing the process as we go.”
Turns out yaupon is the only plant indigenous to North America that is caffeinated, which makes our heart go pitter-pat on every level. And while yaupon was used by Native Americans for centuries, this source of “jitter free energy and antioxidants” ended up in the cultural dustbin for epochs.
Enter the sisters. Harvesting, processing and packaging of Cat Spring Tea is all done by hand, necessitating both skilled and unskilled labor. “Cat Spring Tea creates second chance employment job positions, amplifying the message that, although overlooked, our people and our product have great value. Cat Spring Tea collaborates with Texas organizations that offer support for individuals fighting poverty, previous incarcerations, addictions, disability, and other personal obstacles.”
And the product itself is set apart from other teas on the domestic market. It is, we noted, native, whereas coffee, other teas and yerba mate are all imported. Yaupon is also tannin-free, making it smoother and milder than other black and green teas. You can resteep multiple times, and your cuppa won’t get bitter on you.
Flavors are way creative, too. Black yaupon comes in both loose leaf and bags, packages of different sizes, and flavors include basic, As American as Apple Pie and Stateside Chai. The last two, as you might imagine, are naturally flavored and yummy.
Green yaupon comes in loose leaf and bags as well, with basic green and the delightfully named It’s Not Easty Being Green, a blend of yaupon tea, organic green rooibos, organic ginger, organic lemongrass and organic compliant lime flavoring.
There are a handful of other companies selling yaupon tea, but Cat Spring Tea prides itself as being on “the cutting edge of a re-emerging market.”
Abianne says, “Cat Spring Tea creates second chance employment opportunities for individuals commonly turned away from work and our growing labor demands create even more chances for lives to change. We recognize the parallel between the native tree that people have written off as a menace to be bulldozed and burned and the many marginalized individuals who are overlooked by society as not having value or any skills to offer. Finally, this product is who we truly are: it’s from our land, it’s our desire to equip our workers and enhance their lives, and it’s our skills and dinner conversations that are employed to solve new problems and build Cat Spring Tea.”
She also recognizes the huge impact of reaching Millennials will have. “I think Millennials are a generation of informed consumers like never before.” she says. “They care about where the product is grown, how it’s harvested, and where it originally came from in addition to the business practices of an organization. And for the first time, there is the capability for them to have insight into all of those aspects.”
How do you engage in social media or how can our readers/consumers find you? We are on facebook, instagram (@CatSpringTea), and twitter (@CatSpringTea). Our website is www.CatSpringTea.com