It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, it’s Guayusa (GWHY-YOU-SA): the super hero of the herbal tea world. If you haven’t seen this herb yet, keep looking. Why? It seems to offer the best of everything. It is high in antioxidants like green tea, while also offering a caffeine boost equivalent to a cup of coffee. This plant seems to offer all the benefits of yerba mate without the potential bitterness.
Grown in the depths of the Ecuadorian rainforest, this relative to the holly plant has been embraced by the Kichwa tribe for centuries. Called the “Night Watchman”, it was traditionally drank around a campfire in the wee hours of the morning to either kick start a day or connect to the dream world.
Legend has it, that the Kichwa tribe prayed for a plant that could help them connect to the dream world. When they awoke in the morning, there was a guayusa plant in their hands. The tea was often drank the night before a hunt, so that the hunter could have a vision of whether it would be successful. Producing an alerted dream state, the Kirachi were said to be able to control their actions in the dreams.
So why would you want to have lucid dreams? Well, according to researcher Beverly D’ Urso, lucid dreaming helps you connect to the present moment and have heightened awareness. In fact, D’Urso used this sleep technique to help her overcome writer’s block.
Drinking a cup of guayusa tea is said to help make that boundary between sleep and wakefulness more fluid. It has also been said to increase productivity. Actor and guayusa advocate Channing Tatum shared that after discovering Runa (a company who brought guayusa tea to the Western world), he and his business partner were able to write Magic Mike in a few weeks.
A Chemical Wonder Plant
If you’ve had coffee and tea you may have noticed that, even though both have caffeine, the effect is very different. Too much coffee brings the jitters and although you’re alert, it’s hard to focus. The guayusa plant has caffeine that creates that alert state in coffee and the l-theanine that makes a cup of tea so relaxing.
The end result is a balanced brew: one that can keep you both awake and focused. This plant seems to have it all: both stimulants and antioxidants including methyl xanthine alkaloids, theophylline and theobromine.
Protecting the Rainforest
So how did this plant come to the Western World? One of the first to notice its commercial potential was Runa founder, Tyler Gage. Wandering through the bio diverse rainforest, Gage discovered that the Kirachi tribe’s primary source of income was logging. Instead of becoming disheartened, Gage saw an opportunity. Guayusa needed the biodiversity of the forest to grow. So why not encourage the loggers to farm instead and bring guayusa to the world? In order to keep this plant thriving, it needs the touch of a human hand.
Guayusa can no longer be grown from seed. Which could be one of the reasons why this plant hasn’t been found in any other region. Today, the plants are grown from cuttings and gently nurtured by the Ecuadorian farmers.
Hundreds and thousands of these plants are being cultivated in nurseries to learn more about how the plant itself grows. After about six months, the guayusa are planted in the canopy of the rainforest and nurtured by the small holder farmers in the region.
It’s a win/win. Purchasing guayusa, you not only protect the rainforest, but also preserve a unique plant and the livelihood of thousands of Ecuadorians.
How to Brew:
Since guayusa is very low in tannins, you don’t have to worry about over-steeping this tea. That being said, most tisanes recommend a steeping time between one and five minutes, using water that is at a rolling boil. The drink has a creamy, smooth taste and has been described as both earthy and floral. But if you don’t want to brew it yourself, try the ready to drink versions.