While Yaupon's cousin, the Yerba Mate, grows throughout Southern Brazil and Northern Argentina, Yaupon is a North American species. In fact, Yaupon is endemic to the Southeastern United States, meaning that it naturally grows nowhere else. A disjunct population has been reported from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, but the observations are scant, and we doubt that Yaupon is growing there naturally.
Yaupon is North America's only native caffeinated plant species, and it has been consumed by Native American tribes for at least 10,000 years. Traditionally, the natural range of Yaupon extends from East Texas in the west, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in the east. It does not normally occur north of the "fall line", which is the point where the alluvial plain transitions to the "piedmont", or foot hills. Cities along the fall line include Macon and Augusta in Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina. In Florida, Yaupon grows down to Palm Beach County on the east coast, and to Sarasota County on the west coast. By archaeological accounts, Florida is the historic center of Yaupon production. Today, all of Yaupon Brothers teas originate from the east coast of Florida.
Although Yaupon may occur inland, it prefers coastal environments. Especially forests known in Florida as "maritime hammocks." In Texas, Yaupon has become especially plentiful in between Austin and Houston, and it is treated as somewhat as a nuisance in those areas because it's extremely flammable and cattle will not usually eat it. Without a canopy overhead, Yaupon in Texas has become widespread. Along the east coast of the US, Yaupon continues to grow as it always has; as an understory shrub or small tree. Yaupon is a slow-growing, but long-lived species. It is also extremely hardy, and able to withstand extreme temperatures, salt spray, and a wide range of soil types and growing conditions. Yaupon survives in sun or shade, but it's growing habits will adapt to the level of sunlight it receives. Here at Yaupon Brothers, we find that shade-grown Yaupon produces larger leaves which have a better taste and aroma.
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