Excited to share that our friends at Sweetgreen are expanding their presence in Austin with a second location opening Monday, December 21st on The Drag at 2234 Guadalupe St! To celebrate, we are surprise delighting the first 100 customers to order pickup on the sweetgreen app a complimentary bottle of YAYAYA Yaupon!
Here comes 2021! Bring on the Yaupon!
We are excited to announce YAYAYA Yaupon's latest partnership with Sips by: the premier self-care or gift service that delivers a customized monthly tea subscription box to your door! This month you can find our Self Care Ritual blend made with organic yaupon, peppermint, nettle, and oatstraw in the Sips by Resolutions tea box!
In Edible-Alpha® podcast #67, Tera chats with Rachael Young, founder and CEO of YAYAYA, an Austin, Texas-based beverage startup centered around the caffeinated plant yaupon. They discuss the ups and downs of bringing such a unique product to market and scaling a beverage business, including the challenges of raising capital.
An ethnobotanist and avid forager, Rachael discovered and fell in love with yaupon a few years ago. Native to a handful of southern states, the plant contains caffeine and is rich in the feel-good phytochemical theobromine. Native Americans used yaupon as a tea-like beverage, calling it “the drink of social wellness.” But once Europeans settled in the U.S., it all but vanished from consumer consciousness—expect among cattle ranchers and farmers in the South, who view the plant as a prolific, hard-to-eradicate nuisance.
After researching brewing methods and tinkering in her kitchen, Rachael developed a delicious beverage that provides a “gentle uplift” as opposed to the jolt delivered by energy drinks. Confident that others too would love yaupon once they learned about and tried it, she launched Texana Tea at Central Market in May 2018—still foraging, brewing and bottling by hand. Aiming to expand beyond Texas, Rachael rebranded the company as YAYAYA and relaunched in May 2019.
Scaling up has had its challenges. Rachael’s first experience with a copacker didn’t go smoothly, and she’s been told several times that the education curve for her product is too high and she’d need $100 million to really make it work. Whole Foods Market picked up YAYAYA for its Southwest region, but the March 2020 launch into the chain landed right in the thick of the COVID-19 outbreak. Rachel was also slated to pitch at Natural Products Expo West, but the pandemic derailed that opportunity.
Despite these setbacks, YAYAYA has sold well at Whole Foods, Central Market, convenience stores and other accounts, and Rachael remains as passionate, driven and excited as ever about bringing yaupon to the masses. Given consumers’ shifting shopping patterns amidst the pandemic, she’s also working on building e-commerce.
Next, Tera and Rachael tackled the topic of raising capital and how it can be tricky to find investors whose vision aligns with a founder’s. Entrepreneurs in tech-heavy markets such as Austin also often find that the local investment community isn’t well versed in making money in food. And while there has been progress in investing in female founders, women still have a harder time raising than male entrepreneurs. Tera stressed the importance of financial literacy and knowing all available financing options as key to overcoming these barriers.
YAYAYA Yaupon, an Austin-based & woman-owned American yaupon tea company can now be found in all 47 stores of the southwest region of Whole Foods Market. YAYAYA Yaupon is offered ready-to-drink in glass bottles as well as in biodegradable tea bags in the dry tea section.
“Whole Foods has been really supportive of the emerging yaupon category, though they also recognize that we are still early as an industry. Yaupon is the most performance enhancing and mood boosting of all the caffeinated plants. It’s delicious and tastes like bold tea. We flavor only with organic functional herbs including adaptogens and plants that support immune and nervous systems. YAYAYA is the happy energy that everyone needs right now,” says founder Rachael Young. “I’m grateful for this opportunity and it’s a wonderful platform for introducing people to the delicious and healthful benefits of American yaupon. Grateful that they’ve given us space to build and lead the category.”
For those who are unfamiliar, yaupon is the common name for a species of holly related to yerba maté. It only grows in the United States and the dried brewed leaves make an energizing beverage that tastes like a combination between strong black tea and yerba mate. Yaupon is naturally high in antioxidants, polyphenols and anti-inflammatory flavonoids. Yaupon is the only plant native to North America to naturally contain caffeine and theobromine. Theobromine is famously known as the happiness element found in cacao. Yaupon contains roughly 1% caffeine - about half that of coffee - but theobromine’s stimulating effects are super valuable: it is known to stimulate, improve mood, and increase cognitive function. In peer reviewed studies, theobromine has also been found to strengthen bones and repair tooth enamel.
“There are only eight known plants on the planet to contain viable amounts of caffeine and theobromine. Out of all of them, yaupon is the uniquely more-uplifting-than-stimulating one,” says Young. “Who doesn’t want to perform better, feel happier, and all while improving immunity?”
YAYAYA Yaupon offers seven SKUs across two categories. All are made with certified organic yaupon and flavors are differentiated with functional organic herbs and honey.
YAYAYA’s WFM launch comes with national distribution with grocery industry leader United National Foods (UNFI), making it available from the Lancaster distribution center to Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
YAYAYA tea is made from North American Yaupon, a rediscovered caffeinated plant native to the continent, and flavored with only organic herbs and no cane or processed sugars. YAYAYA's yaupon is harvested by formerly incarcerated women or those who previously did sex work, supporting inclusive employment.
This brand stood out for its support of local agriculture and unique taste profile.