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Guayusa tea: The Amazonian ‘Super Leaf’

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Most tea aficionados will have heard of Yerba Maté, a caffeinated herbal tea popular in South America, and increasingly all over the world. However, deep in the Amazon rainforest there is another plant, a biological cousin of Maté, one that when infused in a brew tastes sweet rather than bitter, that is far lesser known: Guayusa tea, the super leaf or Night Watchmen’s plant.

While the rest of the world is only starting to learn about this fascinating drink, evidence suggests that Guayusa has been used by indigenous tribes, most notably the Amazonian Kichwa, for hundreds, if not, thousands of years, primarily as a stimulant due to its high caffeine content. The myth goes that a long time ago Amazonian tribesmen were lackluster and unproductive in their duties, until one man ventured into the forest and fell asleep against a Ilex guayusa tree. In his dream the tree spoke to him and told him he should eat the leaves. So the tribesman did, and immediately the consuming of the plant gave him newfound energy, strength and focus. This story was passed down from generation to generation, creating both a cultural and spiritual tradition surrounding Guayusa.

In all reality, Guayusa tea is not officially a tea, since it is not related to the Camellia Sinensis plant. Rather, it is a beverage made by infusing the leaves of the Ilex guayusa plant. The Guayusa plant is found in the upper Amazonian regions of Ecuador, Peru and parts of Colombia, and grows at an elevation ranging from 660 to 6,560 feet. The leaves are prepared like most other teas, as they are harvested, rolled, and oxidized, before being used in a brew.

The strength of Guayusa tea, and its uses in our modern, health and performance orientated lives, lies in its combination of beneficial compounds (caffeine, L-theanine and theobromine), and ability to keep the drinker awake and alert but relaxed and calm at the same time. One brew of Guayusa is comparable to one cup of coffee in terms of its caffeine content. However, the caffeine enters the body more slowly, creating a more controlled feeling of alertness, one that lasts longer and doesn’t end in a crash.

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