“People are surprised by how familiar it tastes,” says Abianne Falla, founder of CatSpring Yaupon, one of the first commercial suppliers of the crop, based in Cat Spring, Texas. “But they notice that it’s a lot smoother and less astringent. That’s because yaupon doesn’t have tannins, which are what people are usually trying to cut with sugar or milk.”

Falla says the brand’s Green variety mimics a Japanese green, the Medium Roast an oolong, and the Dark Roast a standard black tea. And because there are no tannins, you never have to worry about steeping for too long, which can turn other teas bitter. “We have a restaurant here in Austin, Dai Due, that does a four hour hot steep with the Black, and they’ll get almost four gallons of iced tea from one ounce of loose leaf,” Falla says.

The effects on the body are less intense than your average cup of coffee, with about 25 to 30 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Some theorize that the interaction of the caffeine and other amino acids in yaupon create a delayed release into your large intestine, rather than your stomach. “So you don’t get the spike and then the crash,” Falla says. “The anecdotal feedback we get most often is that it’s a focused, more mental boost than anything else.”

And then there are the health benefits. The nutritious brew has an antioxidant level similar to blueberries, and the same kinds of polyphenols as green tea. Plus, it’s high in rutin, a natural anti-inflammatory, as well as saponins, which act as natural cleansers.