What Is Guayusa?

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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Guayusa is a type of tea that is made from holly leaves grown in the Amazon. Technically not a traditional tea because it is made from Ilex guayusa instead of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, it is, however, considered an herbal tea. Evidence suggests it is an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamins. Guayusa is often compared to the South American tea yerba mate, but lacking the bitter taste.

A traditional morning drink in Ecuador for thousands of years, guayusa has only gained popularity in Europe and North America within the 21st century. Described as a mild tea, its combination of stimulants make it a unique morning wake-up choice. Naturally caffeinated, this tea has more caffeine than most other teas, about 90 mg for every 8 ounces (236 ml), and it contains theobromine, the soothing element in chocolate. Additionally, the caffeine is released into the blood stream slowly so there is no sudden burst of caffeine introduced into a system. These factors combine to provide an alert, non-jittery feeling.

Studies have also shown that guayusa contains about twice the amount of antioxidants as green tea, often hailed for its health benefits. It is also a good source of vitamin C. Though there have not been many scientific studies on its nutritional benefits as compared to other healthy teas, like green tea, in theory, guayusa has increased health benefits.


In Ecuador, Guayusa is a traditional tea brewed in villages before the working day starts. The tea is brewed in large quantities in the morning and then passed out to members of the community who sit around a fire and talk, telling stories. This tradition began over 4,000 years ago.

To prepare, cold water should be boiled and then poured onto the leaves. The leaves should be allowed to steep in the water for at least four minutes for weak tea. For every 8 ounces (236 ml) of water, 2 grams of tea leaves are suggested.

At the beginning of 2011, guayusa was introduced to the United States and online markets by commercial manufacturers. In addition to the traditional flavor, flavors such as ginger citrus and peppermint have been added to the commercial product. There are still relatively few commercial manufacturers who produce this Ecuadoran tea, however.

Although guayusa is harvested from rainforests, its cultivation actually helps rainforest preservation. The holly plant grows under the tree canopy, so rainforests are maintained where guayusa is harvested. Additionally, the farmers who grow this tea are all local, native villagers.


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Post 8

It is great to drink as iced tea. That is the most common way it is prepared in Ecuador.

Post 7

@ddljohn: A pound can be had from RUNA for $16.That's a steal compared to any other teas that I have purchased.

Post 5

With guayusa tea having twice as much antioxidants as green tea and some caffeine as well, I can see this tea growing in popularity.

I have a favorite tea shop where I buy wonderful loose leaf teas from all over the world. This tea was listed once as a special of the month, and that was my first exposure to guayusa tea.

Up to this point, I have never tried it, but now that I understand the benefits of it, I think I might have to buy a few ounces the next time I visit the tea shop.

Post 4

Guayusa tea really sounds like a nice alternative to coffee. I think one reason people drink so much coffee is the caffeine they feel they need to get started in the morning.

Although the caffeine in guayusa tea is slower to be absorbed in your system, you might not be as apt to drink as much of it.

I know many people who love coffee, and drink a cup first thing in the morning, but they are also trying to cut down on the amount they drink throughout the morning.

It sounds like a cup of guyusa tea with some peppermint would be a much better way to start the day.

Post 3

@simrin-- Have you tried making it in a coffee machine?

I had the same problem as you, the flavor didn't seem to come out enough when it is just steeped in hot water. I tried boiling it like you said but that caused a million little pieces of guayusa to float around and they ended up in my cup even after straining it.

Then, I read on a forum that some people actually run the dry guayusa leaves through a grinder and brew it in the coffee machine just like coffee. I tried that right away and the results were much better. It's stronger and doesn't need straining.

In case you don't know already, you can use the guayusa multiple times. So save the leaves and make it again later. Or if you like having more than one cup, just add more water to the coffee machine and leave the tea in there.

Post 2

@ddljohn-- I agree, it is a great coffee substitute/replacement. I started out making tea with 5 grams of guayusa and now have it with 10 grams and I don't miss coffee at all.

I like the taste too, I think it's even better than coffee. I have mine with honey. Cocoa sounds interesting, I was thinking of adding a stick of cinnamon in mine.

The only problem I have with it is brewing it. I feel like I have to steep it in hot water for a very long time to get the flavor and consistency I want and by then, the water is not as hot.

Should I boil it on the stove instead? Any suggestions, anyone?

Post 1

I had heard a lot of good things about yerba mate and heard that guayusa is similar but has even more caffeine. I decided to get the guayusa because I'm a regular coffee drinker and I need a lot of caffeine to get me going.

It was surprisingly more expensive than I expected, which is kind of the downside. But once I had it, it was absolutely amazing! No bad side affects of regular caffeine at all!

I didn't realize before this how much coffee was wearing me out. When I have coffee, my energy sky-rockets and then rapidly falls after an hour or two, at which point I am all jittery and uncomfortable. This doesn't happen

with the guayusa at all. The energy is constant, no rapid increases or decreases and absolutely no jitters just like the article says.

I am loving this stuff and I wonder why I put myself through so much with coffee. The taste is very different and I can't lie, I do miss the scent and flavor of coffee. But I've discovered that I can add a little bit of cocoa in it which reminds me more of coffee and tastes better.

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