Abianne Falla is one of those people I feel lucky to know. She has a quiet strength and goodness in her that leaves you refreshed and inspired after every interaction. It is not surprising then, that the company she started with her sister is a reflection of who they are–a company that celebrates the tradition and bounty of their homeland while also creating jobs and purpose for those in their community.
In exploring ways to honor the potential of their great-grandfather’s land, Abianne and JennaDee, also look for ways to honor the potential of their workers, hiring people in their community who have experienced homelessness, been incarcerated or have dealt with addiction and failing health. It is really a magical thing, the story of how an undervalued resource and undervalued people have been brought together to experience the dignity of work and of the land, and create an exceptional product that it entirely unique to their homeland–Texas.
In our latest edition of Meet the Modern Pioneers, we sat down with Abianne to hear a bit about the story of Catspring Yaupon.
And on a personal note, I think this naturally caffeinated beverage is unlike anything I’ve ever had. It is the only “tea” that is made in America and there is none of the negative effects of a typical cup of coffee or tea. You really should try it.
What was your inspiration for starting CatSpring Yaupon?
It actually started with a drought about 6 years ago; it was a extreme drought and on our family property in Cat Spring, Texas, we were losing everything from our 100 year old oak trees to our hay. Except for the yaupon; the yaupon was fine. JennaDee (my sister & Co-Founder) started to look into this persistent plant and discovered this legacy of consumption that was long since forgotten! Native Americans consumed and traded it for generations, the Spanish even exported when they arrived but the English didn’t want anything to disrupt the power of the tea trade so they downplayed this native resource.
Once we uncovered this legacy, we experimented with traditional Japanese tea and Yerba Mate (it’s a cousin plant) preparation methods to start producing a yaupon tea. We started producing small batches and selling to restaurants and at farmers markets. People were excited, demand has only grown, and here we are 4 years later.
You talk about the importance of unplugging and reconnecting with yourself. Why do you feel it’s so important for the modern American to take a break from media and live simply?
Our modern lives are hectic. In fact, we absorb on average 490 minutes of media per day. That’s more than 8 hours… of our waking lives. At CatSpring Yaupon, we believe it’s time for a change. That’s why it’s incredibly important that you reconnect with yourself. Curate a moment, and let the pure all-American goodness of CatSpring Yaupon be a part of that experience!
Finish this sentence: My favorite part of running CatSpring Yaupon is…
People. I love the history people in Cat Spring, TX have with the land; their families have been here generations. I love our employees; they teach me something new every week about loyalty and hard work and a multitude of other different other topics. I love working with our customers – they are some incredibly talented individuals who are all creating something special.
How would you describe the flavor of Yaupon?
We use a hybrid of traditional tea preparation methods to make our Pedernales green (which will taste similar to a traditional Japanese green – clean, vegetal, and light bodied), Lost Maples Medium Roast (medium bodied with roasted notes), and Marfa Dark Roast (sweet, complex, and subtly roasted).
Yaupon is naturally tannin-free so the taste profile is much smoother and less astringent than most teas. Several Austin area restaurants serve our yaupon as their iced tea. While most folks don’t realize it’s not traditional tea, they’re pleasantly surprised when they don’t need to sweeten the yaupon. Since it’s tannin-free, it’s virtually impossible to over-steep; we have some restaurants that will do a 4 hour hot steep for their iced tea yielding almost four gallons of iced tea from 1 ounce of loose leaf. That’s almost 4 times the yield for a traditional iced tea option!
Do you have any tips to maximize the flavor of the Yaupon?
There are lots of ways to prepare it. One of the easiest ways at home is to roast the fresh leaves in a wok until they stop smoking. You can also lay them flat to dry in the sun.
What type of effect do you want to have on your local community?
We’ve chosen to define success as when everyone in our community benefits and that’s really our goal. By providing local & sustainable source of caffeine by creating jobs for an overlooked population and creating another use for an undervalued resource, yaupon, we are able to create both environmental and community impact. Just like yaupon is currently overlooked, undervalued, and written off as a nuisance, there are individuals in our community that have been disregarded by our society.
We are honored to be stewards of this opportunity; we didn’t invent yaupon as Native Americans consumed it for millennia but rather we are honored to be the ones bringing this forgotten resource back to mainstream, commercial availability.
Your favorite moment running CatSpring Yaupon so far?
Winning Southern Living’s Entrepreneur of the Year a few weeks ago was incredibly affirming. To have some of the leaders in the food & beverage industry see the potential for yaupon and CatSpring Yaupon as the premiere producers was beyond encouraging.
Do you see CatSpring Yaupon expanding in the future?
We’ve been overwhelmed by the interest in the last few years. We’re growing every month and excited to share yaupon with more and more people.
What do you do when you’re looking for creative inspiration?
To recharge, I’ll get outside and go on a walk. Leave my phone and screen. If I can, find my way somewhere green and people-free. And depending on what challenge I’m facing, I have a few friends that act as amazing sounding boards; I always walk away from those conversations refreshed and excited about the next options!
Inspired? Wait until you see this video:
You can buy Catspring Yapon here.