What is Guayusa tea?
Guayusa comes from the same family of rainforest holly trees as yerba mate, the popular caffeinated tea that is drunk all over South America. Yerba mate grows in the Atlantic Forest whereas Guayusa thrives in the Amazon rainforest. Grown primarily in Ecuador, its health giving properties are well-known by indigenous people and it has been an important part of tribal life for centuries.
Because Guayusa contains virtually no tannins, it doesn’t have the bitter taste of green tea and even some black teas. Instead it has a clean, sweet flavour, that is delicious on its own or with soy, rice or nut milk.
Guayusa is one of few known caffeinated holly trees and it’s currently breaking out of obscurity. The last ten years have seen it become popular as a clean source of caffeine energy. But it’s not new at all - the earliest evidence of Guayusa being used by humans was in a tomb in the Bolivian Andes, dated to around 1,500 years ago!
Its effects on the body are often described as being more gentle in feeling than the caffeine effect from a cup of coffee or regular energy drink, having ‘no jitters’. It also has vitually no tannins, so lacks the bitterness of tea - this also makes it possible to resteep the leaves a number of times.
A natural energy source
As well as caffeine, its unique chemical make-up includes the caffeine-related compounds theobromine and theophyline, plus a whole host of essential vitamins and minerals.
It contains vitamins C and D; minerals including potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc; AND all 15 essential amino acids, including leucine, which doesn’t occur naturally in the body but is needed to repair and build muscle tissue.
More antioxidants than green tea
Guayusa is packed with antioxidants too, which help to neutralise free radicals in the body. You may suprised to learn that Guayusa contains a much higher concentration of antioxidants than even green tea.
Good for the environment
Guayusa grows in the rich and fertile Amazon rainforest. It thrives in the shade and relies on ‘forest gardens’ where it is protected from the sun. Growing more Guayusa is great news for the rainforest because it means planting more trees and regenerating areas of land that may have been previously deforested by the logging industry.
A better deal for farmers
Harvesting and drinking Guayusa has been part of life for Ecuadorian communities for centuries, and by selling the tea they are now able to earn income from it too. For local farmers, it’s a sustainable and ecological alternative to working for the oil or timber industries that continue to deforest the Amazon.
Guayusa leaves are harvested manually by picking mature leaves (up to two times per year). Unlike yerba mate leaves, which are picked with stems attached, only the Guayusa leaf is picked, which results in a product that’s almost entirely composed of leaf material, just like ‘normal’ teas derived from Camellia sinensis (green tea).