The Conflicting Tea Edges of an Empire

For part 2 of 6 of our blog series about Yaupon(Cassine) tea, we are going to take a chronological look at how Yaupon(Cassine) tea and Camellia tea came into European civilization.

While our Tea division does dabble in the cultivation and manufacturing of both Camellia and Yaupon(Cassine) tea, we never expect to research both and see how close these two would rival each other in the British Imperial markets. While we know that Camellia tea won out and has become the second most consumed beverage in the world behind water. We were surprised of some the details concerning the history and introduction.

As always, we tried to simplify it down to the most important facts and if at possible shed new light on information that hasn’t been utilized. There are plenty of books on the history of Camellia tea, there is not much about Yaupon(Cassine) tea. Fortunately, we found some information worth noting, not just because it is “new” old information, but because of the individuals who have written this information and the time period. So we built a timeline comparing Camellia tea and Yaupon(Cassine) tea.

While it may look like we are bias in providing more information about Yaupon(Cassine) tea, this is not the case. We highlighted important developments of Camellia tea, yet we dug deep to find references referring Yaupon(Cassine) tea from 1536 to 1707.


Let’s start off by looking at references of the teas within European literature. For camellia tea we see two instance the first mentioning of it in 1539 and then the first mentioning of it in english 39 years later. While there is an older reference that potentially mentions Yaupon(Cassine) before Camellia, there is not exact reference by the author calling it Cassine even though the description of the plant and ritual is identical later descriptions. We do know that 5 years after the first mentioning of Camellia tea, we see the first reference to Cassine. There is also two more references to Cassine before any reference is published in english.

Next we look at the narrow time window for which Britain finally started importing directly from China (1669) through the British East Indies Company and how 2 years later we see a secretary for one the Lord Proprietors of South Carolina, John Locke, request samples of Cassine be sent to Barbados on a shipment. This is very important because we have two parts of the British Empire potential competing for an emerging market. One side was the British East Indies Company importing chinese tea and the other was a Provincial colony, Carolina, in the New World which could produce Cassine tea and had a logistical advantage in shipping. The British East Indies Company had an advantage of not being under the direct influence of the government and shareholders had a sphere of influence within the political establishment.The British East Indies Company was a corporation with a private army and navy, with little to no oversight and accountability to a higher authority besides theirself.

The last point we want to make in this blog is not so much a comparison of the two teas but more of noting how Yaupon(Cassine) was starting to grow in popularity within medical circles of the late 17th and early 18th century.

John Locke is an important figure in both British and American history. His political philosophy has shaped political ideology all the way to the present. He wrote the Carolina Constitution and the Second Treatise of Government. He was in service to Lord Ashley Cooper, not only as his secretary but his physician as well.

It is known that Locke was friends with and corresponded with Robert Boyles. Boyle’s impact on science like Locke’s impact on political philosophy is ever present today. Boyle’s Law of gas, developing a methodology to conducting experiments, and the usage of Latin to delineate specimens while studying organisms.

John Pechey was a London physician, like Locke and Boyles, who would become the head of the Physician’s college. We cannot tell if Pechey and Locke had a professional relationship, we know that Pechey and Boyles did. What is important about Pechey are two things, he wrote The Compleat Herbal of Physical Plants, with two editions 1694 and 1707. In a letter from Pechey to Boyles, written in 1695, Pechey describes creating a tincture out of the “Famous Carolina herb Cassiny” and treating people with smallpox. We reviewed the 1694 edition of his book, and there was no reference to Cassiny or hollies. We reviewed his 1707 edition and found one reference to holly, “waters of hollies,” in a formulation with lavender to help in delivery. We can only speculate that “waters of hollies,” is an infusion of holly leaves in water.

We see the curiosity for “Cassiny or Casini” in the late 17 century, but after 1700 when Leonard Plukenet, London physician, plants it in his garden and names it, Cassine vera floridanorum, we don’t see much mentioned about it. People across London start planting it in their gardens and a large part of the plant population died in the winter 1740.

While we could not find any direct evidence of economic oppression against Yaupon(Cassine) from other parts of the British Empire. We will continue to research it and update when appropriate. We hope to find evidence in the future of the source of John Pechey’s Cassiny, how did he get it? Current thought is that it was not ready available in London before 1700 and his letter was written in 1695. Could he have gotten it from John Locke? Did Robert Boyles experiment with Cassiny? What is important is that two prominent men of their time, are associated with the interest and usage of it.

So in our next blog, we are going to pick up in 1699 and move forward chronologically. We will begin to see where a large mass of confusion starts over what Yaupon(Cassine) should be called scientifically. We will update our timeline to add some interesting facts about Camellia tea. How it was until the 1820’s to 1840’s that tea plantation development occurred in India and in Sri Lanka, which is a considerable time after Thomas Aiton did Yaupon(Cassine) a disservice by labeling it Ilex vomitoria L. So until next, as we always say, we hope you have enjoyed this entry and don’t forget to, “Grow Forward!”

Take Care,



*Editorial Note: Inforgraphic does not contain bibliographic citation reference from John Pechey to Robert Boyles correspondence.

Pechey, J. “Some Observation Made upon the Herb Cassiny; Imported from Carolina: Shewing It s Admirable Vitures in curing the Small Pox.” Written By a Physitian in the Countrey to Esq; Boyle at London. London, 1695. pgs 1-8.


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