Letter Re: Holly as a Substitute Caffeine Source

Many people in North America wonder how they would survive in a world without caffeine [since coffee and cocoa are both imported].  An alternative to coffee could be Yaupon holly tea.  The Yaupon holly is used as a tea by various Indian tribes, and it has been studied as a commercial herbal tea drink.

According to my local colonial history book, colonists also raised Yaupon tea leaves for trade. It is related to yerba mate, a holly used to make a caffeinated tea in South America.
The Wikipedia article is rather confused on this point, but it is believed that the holly leaves need to cure and turn black to use for tea.  Curing the leaves is supposed to prevent the leaves from causing nausea (Yaupon’s Latin name is Ilex vomitoria). 
Yaupon holly is a small native evergreen tree that will grow anywhere from Climate Zone 7 all the way to southern Texas. It has small smooth leaves, tiny red berries that attract songbirds, and it can handle extreme heat and drought. Yaupon holly comes in dwarf, regular, and weeping varieties. The most common cultivar is “Pride of Houston,” which becomes a coarse open tree about 12 feet tall with small red berries in the winter.

It will thrive in areas where ornamentals like dogwood would be scorched, but it will also grow in swamps or sand dunes. Because they are so tough, you may see Yaupon holly trees used to landscape ugly industrial areas or as a screen, but it is also attractive enough be the centerpiece of a small landscape. – HC