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Origins of Guayusa, the “Watchman” Plant

Why-you-suh…let’s say that together…Why-You-Suh. Guayusa or Ilex guayusa is one of three caffeinated holly trees known in the world. The other two are its more popular cousin, Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) and Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria). The evergreen, holly-leafed tree originates and almost exclusively grows in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest. But they can also be found in Peru and Colombia. Guayusa is harvested from trees that grow under shaded canopies. These trees can grow up to nearly 100 feet and live to be over 100 years old.

Although guayusa is not related to the Camellia Sinesis plant, the evergreen shrub that produces tea, guayusa leaves are similarly picked, dried, and brewed for drinking. Over the years, guayusa was used as an energy lift because, in addition to its caffeine content, it contains stimulants such as methylxanthine alkaloids, theophylline, and theobromine.

Guayusa travels back to a history of cultural heritage by indigenous tribes in Ecuador. The Jivaro community nicknamed guayusa, “Night Watchman” because they believed it keeps you awake. Even while asleep, you are aware of your surroundings. Every day the Jivaro woke up early in the morning to boil a pot of guayusa leaves, which they drank while telling stories. This tradition strengthened their kinship with each other and cultivated their relationships. The Jivaro also believed guayusa caused hypnotic effects that induced lucid dreams, which foretold the successfulness of hunting expeditions.

A prominent myth illustrates how the Kichwa people chewed on the guayusa leaves to be energized and strengthened, so they would stop being lazy and tired. Ages ago, the Amazon rainforests were over-populated with native tribes. People were always tired and unproductive. One day, a man traveled into the forest and fell asleep next to a tree. Legends say the guayusa tree spoke to him, telling him to eat the leaves. The man listened to the tree, and immediately, he was full of energy, strong and rejuvenated. This experience was passed down throughout the tribe, and eventually, this began a tradition of chewing and later drinking guayusa for energy and strength.

I had my first cup of guayusa a few days ago. The beautiful honey hue it created smelled of vibrant earthy tones. It was like a freshly cut lawn on a spring morning after an evening of rain. I could taste the “awakening” almost immediately. The bold caffeine-content was subtle, almost comforting on my palate. It offered rich layers that soothed my throat and soon my entire body.

In addition to Art of Tea’s guayusa, try one of their newest blends also containing guayusa called Happy Tea. This organic certified tea combines guayusa, strawberries, green rooibos, apple bits, Jasmine green tea, hibiscus, rosehips, and natural flavors to awaken you. Enjoy the smooth yet mild taste of the guayusa gently paired with the fragrance of sweetness.

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