June 20, 2012. Carole Strawhand Collection
Virginia Beach Beacon. March 17, 1994
From the book Black Drink: A Native American Tea
By Charles M. Hudson 1979
In 1928 it was reported that yaupon tea, once used on the Southern coast, had disappeared nearly everywhere except on Knotts Island, North Carolina "where nearly every farmer has a patch of yaupon in his yard, and puts up a barrel or so of it every year. The twigs are usually gathered in spring, chopped up with the leaves and dried by artificial heat, so rapidly that they are scorched. When wanted for use a handful or so is put in a tea-kettle, with water, left on the stove indefinitely, and the decoction poured out when called for".
Melinda Lukei in History of Mackay
I have to tell you about yaupon tea. Yaupon tea was the drink of the people of the Island. They didn't have money to buy imported tea so they boiled the leaves and twigs of the yaupon until the water got brown then you would beat the leaves and twigs to get out all the favor for the tea This was called curing the Yaupon. Then a hand full or two was placed in a big kettle for days to simmer. You just added more cured yaupon and water as you needed for your tea. The Indians used the tea for medicines and drink. Most people had a Yaupon in the yard some where. I remember both my parents and grandparents talking about it. There's still Yaupon trees in the front yard of homes on the Island. The leaves contain caffeine. The bushes have red berries in the winter and they are used for decorating for Christmas. Yaupon is a species of the holly tree.
Jane Brumley. I drank lots of yaupon tea growing up. Leaves burned in an outdoor iron pot, then boiled like tea. In summer teas were made and dropped down in well to cool. Some folks drank it hot.
Joel Waterfield. I'm sure June Faye (White) Cason knows how to make yaupon tea. Her mother Hettie (Waterfield) White made it and she and her husband Fred, daughter, Melva, Sons Alston, Rondel and Marvin drank it all their young life. I was told that some people even allowed it to ferment. I don't know how people drank the God awful stuff, there isn't enough sugar in North Carolina to sweeten a cup of Yaupon (Holly) tea. It would turn your teeth dark brown and draw in your mouth like a persimmon. Hettie and her husband Fred drank it all the time.
Carole Strawhand. I remember tasting it and I thought it was a bit bitter -- some people put milk and sugar in it like coffee
Burness F. Ansell Jr in his book "Ansells From Currituck County, North Carolina, and beyond. 1650 to 2004" states that due to lacking professioanl medical care many herbel remedies and some "Old Indian" medicines were used with at least one surviving to the present. The Indians steeped the dry leaves of the Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria), which contain a fair amount of cafeine, and made a strong medicinal which they called "Black Drink".