Long summer days call for a refreshing glass of iced tea, and one Texas-made brew is turning over a new leaf with a unique ingredient.
Cat Spring Tea, helmed by sisters JennaDee Detro an Abianne Falla, is made from yaupon, a holly historically used by Native Americans to make tea. The yaupon leaves are harvested on their family's land in Cat Spring, Texas, located on the edge of the Hill Country, about two hours southeast of Austin.
It all started in 2011, when Detro noticed that native yaupon continued to thrive while other trees struggled during the intense drought. After a bit of research and experimentation, the sisters began brewing in 2013 and immediately targeted the Austin market.
Since then, Cat Spring Tea has garnered media attention from Texas Monthly to NPR, which has helped the brand expand to other Texas markets, including San Antonio, Houston, and Marfa, as well as a handful of retailers in California, Nevada, Washington, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
Natural benefits of yaupon tea include antioxidants and a caffeine level that provides a "clean," jitter-free energy boost. The tea is also naturally tannin-free, so it's less bitter and impossible to oversteep. Cat Spring Tea flavors include green, medium roast, and dark roast, as well as unique blends of chai and apple pie.
"The comparisons we get the most is our green is like a traditional Japanese green," Falla tells CultureMap. "Medium roast is going be kind of similar to an oolong, kind of medium-bodied black tea. And then the dark roast is going to be much like a Japanese hojicha. It's more of a complex drink."
Falla says cold-brewed or iced — on its own or in a cocktail — is the way to enjoy it during the summer months. And through June 30, Austinites can visit Weather Up, Swift's Attic, Chicon, The Peached Tortilla, Olivia, and Hotel San Jose to try a Cat Spring cocktail first hand. Local mixologists have crafted a lineup of drinks for the Cat Spring Tea cocktail crawl incorporating the tea with everything from sake and lemonade to mezcal and lavender.
"It's a fun way to partner and promote the restaurants that serve us," says Falla. "It's really exciting to see all of the different ways to prepare it and what it blends well with. I'm not a mixologist, so it's kind of fun to crowd source much better drinks than we would be able to come up with on our own. We have some really creative people in [Austin]."
You can order Cat Spring Tea at a variety of restaurants and bars around town, including the aforementioned restaurants, as well as Dai Due, épicerie, Salt and Time, Odd Duck, Juice Society, and more. Cat Spring Tea can also be purchased online or from Central Market on North Lamar Boulevard, in.gredients, and select H-E-B locations.