Asi Tea taps into yerba mate drinker market with ‘less bitter’ RTD tea

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

'It's like the local, North American version of mate,' Asi Tea Company founder Lou Thomann said.
'It's like the local, North American version of mate,' Asi Tea Company founder Lou Thomann said.
Founder of Asi Tea Company, Lou Thomann, describes tea brewed from the Yaupon tree as a “local version of mate” and believes it can capture an even broader consumer audience. 

Asi Tea makes all of its products – dried tea and RTD tea – from yaupon leaves found locally in Savannah, Georgia, where the company is based. The Yaupon plant is from the same Ilex genus as its South American cousins: Yerba Mate and Guayasa, but much more accessible, Thomann said.

The company also uses other native Southern US ingredients, such as muscadine grapes, aronia berries, local wild mints, and wild yaupon honey, combining it with yaupon to make five RTD tea flavors. Each 14-ounce glass bottle contains around 30 mg of caffeine and between 372 and 428 mg of antioxidants.

The company’s dried tea can be purchased online through Amazon, and its RTD tea bottles are only available in Southeast retailers such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, and independent stores with plans for national distribution in the works, Thomann said.

Yaupon beats out yerba mate in flavor

“Every time I ran into a yerba mate drinker, I gave them this and they always preferred it,”​ Thomann told Beverage Daily.

A study conducted by the University of Florida’s Department of Biology in August 2014 seems to support Thomann’s claim that yaupon has a preferred flavor over mate.

In the study, 75 individuals aged 18 and older, participants sampled unidentified tea infusions of yaupon holly and yerba mate, then rated their favorability of the taste. On a scale from one to nine, 41% of participants gave yaupon a rating of four or higher, compared to only 19% who gave yerba mate the same rating. The researchers suggested the preference might be due to the fact that yaupon is less bitter than mate.

Thomann said Asi Tea is tweaking its flavors to capture even more of the health-minded market.  

Natural source of energy

After a weekend stay at the barrier island of Ossabaw of the coast of Georgia with his family, Thomann learned about the lost Native American practice of brewing yaupon tea from a local herbalist.

yaupon

Native Americans used to boil the leaves and twigs of the yaupon, which grows in a bush in southeastern states like South Carolina and Georgia, for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.

Yaupon is the only significant source of caffeine that grows naturally in the US and when combine with the chemical theobromine it provides the perfect balance of energy without a jittery feeling, the company website said.

Blossoming future for yaupon

The yaupon tree is native and endemic to the Southeast region of the US, which is where Thomann sources all of the leaves that go into making Asi Tea. A major challenge that comes with making yaupon tea is that it is difficult to find an abundance of it one place.

“Right now we’re 100% wild crafted, but we are working towards commercially farming it,” ​Thomann said.

He said that the company plans to harvest yaupon tea leaves on a commercial farm by the end of 2016. 

Related topics: Emerging Markets, Health and Wellness

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