A special tea was prepared by Native Americans and introduced to the Spaniards called Black Tea or Cassina. Made from the evergreen Yaupon Holly, one of the few caffeine containing plants of North America, its botanical name is Ilex vomitoria, which is a reflection of how some felt after drinking it. When the plant is prepared properly by drying and roasting the leaves to make the caffeine more soluble, it is then boiled and frothed before being strained. This dark brown tea has a stimulating effect but if not prepared properly it could be fatal.
Jonathan Dickinson gives a description of the ritual of this drink when he was shipwrecked among the Native Indians, “…an Indian man, having a pot on the fire wherein he was making a drink of the leaves of a shrub (which we understood afterwards by the Spaniard, is called casseena), boiling said leaves, after they had parched them in a pot; …The drink was made, and cooled to sup, was in a conch-shell…passed to the rest of the Casseekey’s associates …but no other man woman or child”.
At the Spanish mission this tea was only served in the council house unless the chef granted special permission to serve it elsewhere. Many native tribes throughout the state drank this special tea. Other drinks were made from leaves, bark or roots of plants and trees. Pine needle tea was another option but a more enjoyable choice was made from the root of the sassafras tree.