Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Black Drink

This entry is from the Raleigh Standard as related in The Rebellion Record:  A Diary of American Events, Volume II, 1862 edited by Frank Moore.

Yopon Tea.—In view of the probable scarcity of tea and coffee during the war, we see the papers are recommending the use of the leaves and twigs of the Yopon, an evergreen which grows spontaneously on our coast. The Yopon is a common drink on the banks, and is highly esteemed by many. We have heard it said that when it is well cured, it is greatly improved when the milk and molasses are boiled with it. It is rather vulgar to use sugar for sweetening Yopon. Molasses is the thing. A venerable lady, who lived to a considerable age on the banks, once speaking of the healthiness of Yopon as a drink, said, "Bless the Lord! Yopon has kept me out of heaven these twenty years."—Raleigh Standard.
It is interesting to note that according to Wiki, Native Americans also made tea from this plant, more commonly called yaupon today.  The Native Americans referred to it as "black drink", and used it for male only purification and unity rituals.  The ceremony included vomiting, hence its current-day scientific name for this plant, Ilex vomitoria.  The active ingredient is caffeine, so I imagine it would make a good substitute for beverages otherwise scarce.

Photograph of an unidentified Confederate solider from North Carolina from the Library of Congress collection.  He doesn't look old enough to drink the likes of Yopon tea.

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