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As far back as 900 years ago, Native Americans near present-day St. Louis, Missouri, used yaupon tea for ceremonial purposes, according to archeological evidence unearthed in recent years. What’s interesting, among other things, is how far the plant traveled to get to the Midwest.

“The discovery — made by analyzing plant residues in pottery beakers from Cahokia [site near St. Louis] and its surroundings — is the earliest known use of this ‘black drink’ in North America. It pushes back the date by at least 500 years, and adds to the evidence that a broad cultural and trade network thrived in the Midwest and Southeastern U.S. as early as A.D. 1050.

In 1709, a naturalist named John Lawson described how Native Americans prepared yaupon tea, in his book, A New Voyage to Carolina. He also wrote how it was “preferred above all other liquids.” By the early 1800s, yaupon tea was a staple in Southern households and was an exported commodity to Europe.

There is much uncertainty as to why yaupon faded out of popular culture. Some say that the Royal Botanist to King George III, William Aiton, gave yaupon it’s stomach turning scientific name in order for the East India Company (whom Aiton secretly worked for) to secure their foothold in the tea industry.