A Story about Savannah’s Native Yaupon Plant

A Story about Savannah’s Native Yaupon Plant

EVERY SAVANNAHIAN has had his or her fair share of sweet tea. However, long before the sugary cups of brown “Savannah Water” were served alongside deep fried seafood treats, the natives of our area enjoyed the taste and healing properties of yaupon—a leafy plant that has been brewed for a very long time.

Luckily, Savannah has two visionaries bringing back the use of the ancient plant.
Owners Lou Thomann and Lori Judge are true pioneers in the world of Savannah’s native yaupon holly. What started with a dream has now turned into Yaupon Tea House & Apothecary.

I was lucky enough to sit down with the pair and enjoy Yaupon Tea House & Apothecary’s ceremonial brew exactly as the Native Americans once did.

“Different tribes would share the tea, and it would create a bond. When Oglethorpe came to Savannah, Tomochichi gave Oglethorpe a cup of this tea,” Judge told me.

As we shared the light, earthy, warm tea, Thomann, who could be considered a self-taught expert on the subject, educated me on the history of yaupon.

On a getaway to Ossabaw Island with the owners of Service Brewery, the two were introduced to the yaupon plant by John “Crawfish” Crawford who, according to Thomann, is one of the most knowledgeable naturalists in the coastal area.

After hand picking and brewing fresh tea over their campfire, Thomann instantly fell in love with the tea and its history.

Thomann returned home and immediately began researching the native holly.

“It opened up this whole world; I realized that this is a huge treasure. This was the most sacred plant in North America amongst indigenous people for thousands of years, and nobody knows anything about it. We started making little tea bags, hand picking it, giving it to people, going to charity events serving it,” explained Thomann.

He started small by harvesting the native plant and distributing it in different forms—tea bags, bottled tea, and more. I’m sure that most locals are very well acquainted with his tea company and its products, ASI Tea Company, even if they may not know it.

The next phase of growth for Thomann occurred with implementation of two yaupon farms, one in Metter, Ga., and one in Florida.

“We have ten thousand plants that we planted. We are doing it in row crops to see if they can be grown that way because right now it is just grown in the wild,” Judge says.
Thomann elaborates:

“The farm in Metter is the research farm. The entire farm is not growing yaupon. We are growing probably about fifteen acres. We first started harvesting yaupon on Heard Island, which is a little barrier island off of Darien, and we propagated,” he says.

“We were genetically selective with which plants looked good and healthy. We propagated them, and we planted about ten to twelve thousand of those plants on the farm in a row crop. No one has ever done that before.”

As America’s only indigenous source of natural caffeine, the yaupon plant has magical properties. Beyond caffeine, the plant contains theobromine, an alkaloid of the cacao plant.

1X4A9978

Together the two natural stimulates give drinkers a slight boost while imparting many believed health benefits such as better digestion, lower blood pressure, and immune-boosting properties.

Thomann‘s goal is to further explore the many benefits of the tea. “We were just awarded a phase two USDA small business innovation research grant, which is to study the feasibility of yaupon for food,” he tells me.

They are pushing even more by reaching for a National Institute of Health grant, which will catapult the duo and their local farm to work towards clinical trials, the purpose being to document the true health benefits of the magical plant.

The most recent, but not final, phase of expansion for the two is their official storefront, which opened April of this year. Sitting inside beneath a large open sunlight that fills the space with warmth is a tall busy yaupon tree that the two brought from their farm.

While Thomann is the yaupon master, Judge has begun to study up on herbalism. The Teahouse has brought the two together, through its mission to recreate traditional uses of yaupon and share natural yaupon products with local Savannah.

Tourists and locals can stop in and enjoy their ceremonial tea—just like I did. The brew is served in a handmade replica of Cahokia civilization’s ceremonial cup.

As the in-house expert on the subject, Thomann tells me the story. “It was one of the largest settlements of Native Americans in the 1700s or 1800s; it was a bigger city than London, as a comparison. In that village they found earthenware similar to this with yaupon and cocoa residue in the cup that was tested. They found it in thousand year old cups.”

Again, honoring the native traditions of yaupon, Yaupon Tea House serves Cocoa Yaupon Tea.

If you feel it is just too warm to drink your tea hot, iced is the modified classic southern version. Yaupon Tea House sells house blended functional teas to take home and brew yourself.

On tap are two original and exclusive yaupon brewed organic kombuchas, which vary from time to time and are available by the cup or by the growler.

“Yaupon has natural sugars, probably in the saponins, so when you make kombucha you do not have to put in as much sugar to ferment it,” Thomann explains.

As for the layout of the apothecary in Yaupon Tea House & Apothecary, on the right of the store you will find rows of exclusive and unique to the store products. The tea house sourced high quality small artisanal businesses to work with and create the unique wellness products.

Customers will find things such as handmade yaupon soap, CBD and yaupon blended products, essential oil balms, facial steams, seasonal skincare products, and much much more. Yaupon pairs well with CBD because, much like CBD, it has natural anti-inflammatory properties.

By blending yaupon with other natural plants and herbs, Yaupon Tea House is offering items that contain ingredients that harmonize and boost the properties of each ingredient.

The hardworking duo will keep pushing. Thomann said it best when he told me that they “are going to start lectures. We are looking for people in the health and wellness space to do either workshops or lectures.”

Advertisements

A Review of Savannah’s Newest Teahouse: La Petite Abeilles

A Review of Savannah’s Newest Teahouse: La Petite Abeilles

Hospitality is one of the major qualities that defines being Southern. For many of us, anytime we host a guest we immediately offer them a glass of iced tea or some warm food. The same applies when we are guests in our another Southerner’s abode.

When I heard about the concept of a new tea house in Savannah, La Petite Abeilles, I thought the restaurant would be nothing short of a perfect fit in our town.

Chef and Owner Mia Guerin opened the doors to her home and La Petite Abeilles only a few short weeks ago. The Teahouse and restaurant sits within the walls of a classic and beautiful historic Victorian home on Barnard Street.

Guerin is doing the Southern thing and offering her guests the opportunity to sit on her wraparound porch and drink some tea. She relocated to Savannah from San Diego because her daughter began studying at SCAD. Before her short-lived move to San Diego, Guerin operated Miss Guerin’s Tea House and a full size bakery in Mesa, Arizona.

As for the name, Guerin explains why coming up with that was the easy part:“My dad is French. Growing up there were three daughters, and my dad used to sing that to us, La Petite Abeilles — the little bees. It is actually spelled incorrectly…but my dad used to sing the La, so it is personal.”

The menu of La Petite Abeilles pays homage to parts of Guerin’s menu at Miss Guerin’s Tea House while incorporating new creations as well.

Guerin explains how she approached creating her new menu as college English major: “Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, so you will see there is Jane Austen characters within the menu. Everybody who is not from Jane Austen is either one of my kids or one of my nieces or nephews.”

As Guerin puts it, almost every single item available is made in house. She says “there are very few cans, tomatoes and beans I think we have in cans.”

To properly execute each dish, Guerin hired two Chefs that just graduated from The Virginia College, Tyler and Maddie. Every single baked good used by the restaurant is baked in their kitchen, even the sliced bread.

I asked Guerin where she sourced some of her local ingredients and her response doesn’t disappoint: “We use all fresh herbs, and I grow those here. From the rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, and pretty much everything. Tyler will walkout with a pair of sissies to clip the rosemary for his rosemary bread”.

1X4A01044

My husband and I went to try the brunch menu. He spotted the Grand Mariner Stuffed French Toast and could not resist. The menu offers more than just brunch or tea—lunch is available as well.

Four thick-cut triangles of toast are dunked in an egg wash before being seared to a golden brown, artfully arranged on a delicate plate, and finished with strawberries and a citrusy Grand Marnier infused cream.

The finished flavor is that of a classic French toast with grown-up kick of orange liqueur. On the side comes crispy fried bacon, the ideal kick of savory, salty seasoning to balance the overall sweetness of the dish.

1X4A0102

I ordered the Emma’s Breakfast, a plate of vegetable-jammed crustless quiche, rosemary roasted potatoes, and a warm scone. The vegetable to egg ratio in the quiche was mind-boggling, as it takes a skilled chef to be able to fill a quiche with so many items yet be able to keep the eggs from falling apart once baked. And although brimming with fresh vegetables, the eggs remained perfectly cooked and delicate.

As for what patrons have ordered the most, “quiche has been the number one thing, and it was the number one thing from before. It has three different types of cheese in it and it is veggie,” Guerin tells me.

Sarah’s Belgian Waffle was my husband’s second choice breakfast, and we decided to go for it too. For this creation you get a plate-sized airy waffle topped with your pick of candied pecans and maple syrup or a berry sauce and whipped cream.

1X4A0092

He opted for the candied pecan version, due partially because of the Southern in him, and it did not disappoint. The sprinkling of crunchy roasted pecans added the right amount to texture to the weightless waffle.

To partake in one of La Petite’s Afternoon Tea Luncheons, you must make a reservation in advance. There are seven available options in meals to devour with your tea. The tricky part is deciding the tea to drink, because La Petite offers over fifty different varieties of tea.

Guerin hand-selected the various tea options through her worldly travels. “I really was fortunate that I got to go to Africa and all these places to got to tea farms and see how it is rolled, how it is made, how it smoked, how it is dried,” she explains as we sit in the ornate dining room of her Victorian.

High Tea Service is available from 4-6 p.m., by reservation only. The service is enough for two people and comes with a choice of two teas and various delectables; including scones, puff pastries, bruschetta, and a crostino.

The final trick up Guerin’s sleeve is her catering skills. La Petite has not limited itself to breakfast, lunch, and tea service, but also offer locals catering options.

And even if you are not catering a big party, this holiday season the store is opening up its baking services to fill any holiday baking goods.

In fact while I was there, I took home a mini pumpkin loaf painted with chocolate, an ideal treat for any holiday table.

Original article can be found here.