Guayusa: Energy From Ecuador
What is guayusa?
GUAYUSA (gwhy-you-sa) is a rare, naturally caffeinated herbal infusion produced from the leaves of a holly tree native to the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador.
Guayusa has been part of Amazonian culture and cultivation for over 2000 years, treasured for its unique balance of caffeine, antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids*, and its energizing effect that is similar to that of coffee and yerba mate.
Guayusa is grown on small family farms and hand-picked by local farmers from the rich soil under the canopy of the Amazon Rainforest. It serves to not only make a difference in the lives of Ecuadorians through income generation, but also helps conserve the rainforest.
Unlike coffee or other energy drinks, guayusa provides balanced energy without the jitters or the sudden crash commonly associated with caffeinated drinks. Its catechins provide a slow release of caffeine for awake and sustainable energy.
Guayusa is naturally smooth and never bitter, with a rich and earthy aroma and slightly sweet finish.
Guayusa is naturally caffeinated and has an energizing effect similar to coffee, tea and yerba mate. Unlike coffee or other energy drinks, guayusa provides balanced energy without the jitters or the sudden crash commonly associated with caffeinated drinks. Its catechins provide a slow release of caffeine for awake and sustainable energy. This gentler and more sustainable caffeine release is said to create mental strength and focus rather than a caffeine buzz. It is a distant cousin of yerba mate, but without the strong bitter flavor.
Guayusa is cultivated on small family farms underneath the canopy of the Amazon Rainforest. Guayusa serves to not only make a difference in the lives of Ecuadorians through income generation but also helps conserve the rainforest. Organically grown in the shade, protected from intense sun and rooted in the rich ecosystem of the rainforest, guayusa creates a profitable alternative to slash-and-burn and clearcutting agricultural methods. It can also be grown with other food, fruit, timber and medicinal plants to create biodiverse and ecologically healthy agricultural plots that allow local farmers to thrive and generate a sustainable livelihood for the community.
Culture and Ritual
Guayusa has been part of the Amazonian culture and cultivation for thousands of years. Traditionally, indigenous families of Ecuador wake up at 3 a.m. daily to sit around the communal fire drinking gourds full of Guayusa tea until sunrise. During this time, the village elders teach the youth about ancestral myths, hunting techniques and social values.
Community shamans will also play a traditional bamboo flute (known as kena) and a two-sided weasel-skin drum, and sing soft rhythmic songs during these early morning hours. The shamans interpret dreams from the previous night, and make recommendations to guide the community and help them live in harmony with the rain forest.
*Our supplier has completed the compound testing of guayusa confirming that the plant contains amino acids, antioxidants, and methylxantine alkaloids (including caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine).
Is Guayusa tea?
Technically Guayusa is not tea. It is produced from the leaves of a caffeinated Amazonian holly tree (Ilex guayusa) and is not related to the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) that produces green and black tea.
Where is Guayusa grown?
Guayusa is grown almost exclusively in the upper Amazonian region of Ecuador. It grows where the Andes Mountains meet the Amazon Rainforest, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Guayusa is harvested from trees that grow under the shaded canopy of the rainforest setting, giving local farmers an economic incentive to conserve the rainforest.
Is Guayusa like Yerba Mate?
Guayusa (Ilex guayusa) is the Amazonian cousin of Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) from the Atlantic Rainforest in and around Argentina. Both are caffeinated rainforest holly trees; however, Yerba Mate has a strong bitter flavor while Guayusa has a smooth taste.
Does Guayusa actually have caffeine or a different stimulant?
Guayusa does have caffeine, but is also composed of other stimulating “methyl xanthine alkaloids,” theophyline, also found in green tea, and theobromine, the stimulant in dark chocolate that provides a soothing feeling. Guayusa is a unique stimulant offering a balanced energy lift.
What is the proper way to brew Guayusa?
Bring fresh, cold water to a rolling boil. Don’t let it boil too long, as it will boil away the flavor releasing oxygen and result in a flat tasting cup of tea. Pour boiling water on leaves and steep for 4-7 minutes, or longer for a darker brew. Use 2 grams of loose leaf Guayusa per 8 oz of water. Guayusa also makes a refreshing iced tea.
Photo credit: Caroline Bennett