Guest Contribution by Nat Eliason of Cup & Leaf

Guayusa is a South American drink that has begun to gain prominence in the west. It’s considered a cousin of the famous yerba mate and is ingrained in Latin culture. It’s a key part of social gatherings and known for its ability to increase energy. Our guayusa guide will help you learn more about this spiritual drink, its health benefits, and how you can brew a cup at home.

What Is Guayusa Tea?

Guayusa tea has been consumed in countries in South America for over two thousand years. This type of tea is an herbal tisane made from the leaves of the holly tree known by the botanical name Ilex guayusa. The guayusa tree is native to the Amazon rainforest and commonly cultivated in Ecuador. It is also found in the Brazilian Amazon, Bolivian Andes, Peru, and Colombia. The largest guayusa tea-producing regions are the Ecuadorian provinces of Napo and Pastaza.

Guayusa plants are evergreen trees that can grow up to 30 meters in height. Most guayusa trees are trimmed to about waist height. This constant pruning encourages the growth of new guayusa leaves and makes hand harvesting easier. Guayusa tea is also known as huayusa in the native language of indigenous Kichwa people. It’s also called wayus or wais in the indigenous language of Shuar.

Flavor and Aroma

Guayusa tea contains high concentrations of caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidants. The flavor of guayusa is similar to the South American drink yerba mate. Unlike yerba mate, guayusa doesn’t have any bitter notes. It is grassy and rich with a gentle sweet flavor. Guayusa also has slight fruity flavors and a creamy texture.

Uses of Guayusa Tea

The native Kichwa or Kichua people of Ecuador use guayusa tea in religious and spiritual ceremonies. It is part of ancient traditional rituals as well. Indigenous families awake in the early morning to drink the beverage while watching the sun rise. This tradition is a communal experience as members of the tribe sit around a large fire while sipping the drink from gourds. The time is used to teach young children the myths and traditions of the tribe.

During the ceremony, shamans play traditional instruments including a bamboo flute called a kena. The shamans chant and interpret dreams from the previous night and make recommendations for the tribe. Guayusa is not as commonly consumed in the west, but its popularity has been increasing over the last decade. Read on to find out what guayusa tea has to offer.

Health Benefits of Guayusa Tea

1. Boosts Energy

This South American tea is famous for its boosting energy levels. Guayusa is a common ingredient in energy drinks in America. This tea can help boost mental clarity and increase physical energy. Guayusa has caffeine content that is higher than black tea, but lower than a strong cup of coffee. Guayusa also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which releases caffeine more smoothly and evenly. This helps to eliminate the spikes and drops associated with coffee consumption.

Guayusa also contains the alkaloids theobromine and theophylline. Both of these chemical compounds are known stimulants that help to improve concentration and increase energy. Theobromine is commonly found in dark chocolate and offers a smooth, full-bodied flavor. Theophylline is found in green tea and is known for its uplifting nature.

2. Chock Full of Nutrients

Guayusa tea is known as a healthy elixir thanks to its composition of a host of nutrients. Guayusa contains essential amino acids that improve mood and induce relaxation. This tea also has twice as many antioxidants as green tea. Antioxidants have been shown to boost cardiovascular health and the immune system. These antioxidants also prevent premature aging, protect the nervous system from degenerative diseases, and inhibit certain types of cancer.

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To be concluded tomorrow