Disrupting the World Without Disrupting the Environment

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Photo Credit: Lost Pines Yaupon Tea

“The acceptance of BTC is sort of a feedback effect. More people need to accept BTC, and it will become seen more and more as a valid currency,” said Jason Ellis, co-founder of Lost Pines Yaupon Tea. “And when it’s seen as a valid currency, more people will accept BTC.”

At Lost Pines Yaupon Tea, the three co-founders are doing their part to influence the spread of Bitcoin. The company, which began selling yaupon tea in early 2015, started accepting Bitcoin a few months ago and have already had several customers pay with this method. In addition to their exploration of alternative currency systems, they’re also interested in disrupting the traditional tea & coffee industries through their focus on both health and the environment.

I spoke to Ellis in depth about the ways that Lost Pines Yaupon Tea is working towards making the world a better place.

Emily Braun: It seems like there’s a rising interest in alternatives to traditional tea & coffee alternatives. Why do you think that is?

Jason Ellis: More and more people are starting to care about where their food and drinks come from and what impact they have on the Earth and their bodies. Traditional tea and coffee is often grown unsustainably, which usually means using a lot of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers.

A lot of people are looking for alternatives to coffee because it can be harsh on the stomach, can give you jitters, can cause anxiety and often leads to the dreaded afternoon caffeine crash. Yaupon and its relative, yerba mate, are less acidic and oily. It’s gentle on the stomach and gives a more focused, jitter-free buzz without the crash. Yaupon contains a lot of theobromine, the molecule in dark chocolate that makes you feel good and provides a clean, focused energy.

Braun: What aspects of the tea industry are most in need of disruption?

Ellis: Sustainability. Poor farming practices are using up topsoil at unsustainable rates. Loss of topsoil is causing poor plant growth, which leads to an increase in fertilizer and pesticide use. There’s been a number of studies coming out over pesticide-laden tea. Many samples of tea sent for testing come back positive for residual pesticides over the safe limit, and often times, those pesticides are not even approved for use in tea production – and in some cases, they have been banned altogether. Yaupon is a native plant of the U.S. that grows without any human intervention and can be wild harvested from areas where its removal is actually beneficial for the environment.

Braun: Can you speak more about the ways your tea & your company are environmentally friendly?

Ellis: We harvest our yaupon in Bastrop, Texas in the Lost Pines Forest, the westernmost stand of loblolly pines in the U.S. In 2011, Bastrop suffered the most damaging wildfire in Texas history. A large contributor to the fire was drought and very dry yaupon, serving as wildfire ladder fuel. Large swaths of the forest were burnt down, and now, yaupon is growing back faster than the pine trees, threatening to turn this unique ecosystem into a yaupon/post oak thicket. We harvest yaupon in the regrowth area of the Lost Pines Forest, giving the pine forest a chance to grow back. Unlike many tea and coffee plantations, we’re reforesting instead of deforesting!

In addition, the property we’re currently harvesting our yaupon from is getting a wildlife tax exemption for removing yaupon to help restore the breeding habitat for the Houston Toad, the first amphibian ever added to the federal endangered species list.

Importing caffeine from across the planet creates a lot of pollution; one large container ship creates as much pollution per year as 50,000 cars. The 16 largest container ships in the world create as much pollution as all the cars in the world combined. We wild harvest our yaupon right here in the U.S. Yaupon is a hardy native plant that thrives without the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or irrigation.

We spent a lot of time researching packaging, because we didn’t want to contribute to the stream of plastic trash ending up in the ocean gyres. We use “omnidegradable” packaging from TekPack Solutions, and as far as we know, they produce the only shelf stable packaging that’s recyclable, biodegradable, and even compostable in a home compost pile.

Braun: I’m also very interested in learning more about the health benefits of yaupon tea. In your own personal experience, what benefits stand out?

Ellis: A handful of studies have come out recently on yaupon’s health benefits. It’s recently been studied for its antioxidant levels, which are comparable to blueberries and green tea. In another study, yaupon’s anti-inflammatory properties showed promise as a preventative of colon cancer. Also, yaupon is rich in theobromine, which has been shown to be a better preventative of tooth decay than fluoride.

Braun: Do you see a relation between being health conscious and being environmentally conscious? Do you see rising trends in either?

Ellis: Yes! Agriculture and health go hand in hand. Pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer use in agriculture affects us and the environment. What’s healthy for the planet is ultimately healthy for us as individuals and as a species. People are becoming more informed, and many people make dietary choices based on the impact their food has on the planet. People are starting to eat more locally grown food. Biking is becoming more popular; it’s great exercise, and it reduces your carbon footprint. There’s been a consistent rise in vegetarianism and veganism, which are often health-related as much as they’re related to the environment and the treatment of animals.

Braun: What are some of the other ways you keep the environment in mind in your day-to-day life?

Ellis: We love the outdoors. We spend a lot of time on the Colorado River and see firsthand the massive amount of trash that ends up in the river downstream of Austin, even though it’s considered a pretty environmentally conscious city. We ride our bikes whenever possible. We sleep on a screened-in patio and don’t use the house climate control for the vast majority of the year. We try our best to eat as local as possible; thus, we’re avid gardeners, and we keep chickens. We collect rainwater for our garden and compost everything we can. We also drink yaupon instead of coffee and tea!

Braun: What are some of the challenges involved in making yaupon tea? And what’s your favorite part of the process?

Ellis: The smell of roasting yaupon is out of this world. Harvesting yaupon is the most challenging and the most fun aspect. There’s nothing better than being outside in the Lost Pines Forest, especially when we’re camping onsite! Since we harvest a wild product, we have to get out to where the yaupon is and deal with the Texas weather. During the summer, it’s not uncommon to have 100-110 degree days, and the other times of the year, we have to work around the rain.

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Photo Credit: Lost Pines Yaupon Tea

Braun: Why did you decide to start accepting Bitcoin payments?

Ellis: We feel that the separation of currency and state is as important as separation of church and state. We like the idea of Bitcoin, we own Bitcoin, and we want to support Bitcoin; it’s another grassroots way to spread the word about yaupon.

Braun: How did you first learn about Bitcoin? Why did it appeal to you?

Ellis: We heard about it at different times. I have always been into computers & technology and first heard about Bitcoin through Reddit, when a pizza was bought for 10,000 BTC. I remember sitting around a poker table that day gambling and telling a bunch of friends that we should each buy $100 of BTC. Unfortunately, none of us did at the time, and we still talk about it to this day. The appeal? It’s an alternative to fiat currencies controlled by banking cartels.

Braun: Have you had any customers pay in Bitcoin yet?

Ellis: Yes, we have! When we got our first order paid in BTC, it was almost as exciting as the first order we ever received.

Braun: What do you see in the future for Bitcoin?

Ellis: Wow, that’s a big question. The future of bitcoin is wide open. It could be anything from being another reserve currency that provides regular people with the ability to have stable savings to being relegated to black market transactions. Governments could try to demonize and outlaw it, or it could be the downfall of bank controlled fiat currencies. What’s for sure is that bitcoin is a revolutionary idea that might have the biggest ability to change the way people live since the invention of money.

– Emily Braun

To learn more about Lost Pines Yaupon Tea & the available products, click here!

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