Meet our 12th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honorees!

Celebrate with us! Tickets on sale for the annual awards celebration on Thursday, February 23, 2023.

Yaupon Brothers

Volusia County, Florida
Founded: 2015

Yaupon Brothers American Tea Co. produces 100% American Yaupon Holly tea, which is the lost American tea varietal. We are leading pioneers in the small but growing Yaupon tea industry, and we are one of the very first companies to bring this delicious, healthy product to market for American consumers in over 100 years.


Wholesale Trade


650% increase from 2018-2021

Revenue Growth

1675% increase from 2018 – 2021

Bryon White 72dpi

Bryon White


Tell us a bit about yourself. What led you to starting your company?

I am a bonafide plant nerd. I have been since an early age and it’s a fascination that I’ve had my entire life. Professionally, I worked in law enforcement for a long time, I’m a criminologist and worked for the Volusia County government for about 15 years. During this, I started my company, Yaupon Brothers on the side developing consumer goods off of a native plant species, the Yaupon Holly.  It’s the only indigenous caffeine source in America, which was a big value proposition. Of course, I was super naive about owning and running a business and thought I was going to instantly make a lot of money and have tons of success. We all know that that’s a fallacy. But, like most entrepreneurs, I’m too dumb to quit and kept chipping away at it. We’ve steadily grown throughout the years and to the point where we are today where we have global distribution. I couldn’t be happier that I get to exercise my passion every day.

Did you know you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No, it really wasn’t something I originally set out to do. Now, looking back, I feel like I always did have an entrepreneurial mindset. I didn’t understand the nuances and the challenges of running a business and I certainly did not think it was going to be as difficult and as challenging as it has been. I’ve had to grow into it but my younger brother who started the business with me is growing up in it.

Tell us about your company and the value you bring to your customers.

The idea for Yaupon Brothers started back in 2011. The first iteration of the company was called Yaupon Asi Tea, with Asi being the Greek word for Yaupon. Yaupon, which is an indigenous plant in Florida and throughout the southeast, has an 8,000-year history of human consumption as a caffeinated beverage, medicine, and as a sacrament. It was a sacred purifier for indigenous people and still is in some circles. I learned about it on a whim after I came across a book called The Black Drink, which was written by an anthropologist from the University of Georgia. I learned about its history of human consumption and how this plant is the only source of caffeine in America. That means everything that we drink that isn’t Yaupon is imported from somewhere else and I thought that was a unique value proposition. Honestly, I was floored that no one had explored the opportunity previously. I’ve done it for so long now that I understand the loss of knowledge and awareness of Yaupon is a direct consequence of the erasure of indigenous cultures in America. It’s become almost a side mission of our business to teach the public about what Yaupon is and its heritage among indigenous people, both in historic times and today.

I think that’s part of the value we bring to our customers – a totally new awareness and new opportunity to be in touch with our own history as American people. Also offering a product that’s good for you and good for the environment. It’s not as impactful to the earth as importing tons of plant material thousands of miles on fossil fuel-burning ships. We can produce a better product right here in our backyards and I think that’s really the most compelling value that Yaupon brings.

What were some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a business owner?

I think for a long, long time, our primary focus was on building a supply chain that could support scale. My brother, our other co-founder, Mark Steele, and I didn’t start off with a lot of business acumen. We didn’t understand startup culture and did not have any background in consumer-packaged goods, which is the space that we’re in. That was a steep learning curve as we were forced to quickly understand how challenging it is to scale. That’s something I hadn’t even considered. You see businesses pop up and you think, “Well, everyone’s doing it. It must be easy.” And it’s not easy at all, there is an art and science to doing business. I feel like we’ve learned that the hard way. Things like going through personnel that was not a cultural fit, burning through too much cash, problems with investors, growing too fast, or challenges entering the retail market. You name it, we probably went through it.

There’s no handbook for entrepreneurs. What resources did you turn to that helped grow your business?

I want to first say that if I would have known what I do now, I probably would have chosen a different path in terms of where I went for help and who I looked for it. In the beginning, when we were trying to get capital into the business, I took advice from investors way too seriously and way too literally. I know now that it’s all a numbers game – they all have opinions, and some of them are good, but you have to take them with a grain of salt. 

One thing that helped us was when we started going through incubators and accelerator programs. The first one we did was the New Venture Competition at UCF in 2017, which we won. We purchased new equipment with our winnings which was the reason we could get our business off the ground. That was a great win and an exciting time for us. The second one we did was called Rally through the Central Florida Foundation and Rollins College, and we won that one, too. That was our first foray into the Orlando investment circle where quickly after, we realized there is simply not a lot of funding for CPG companies in Central Florida like there is tech, healthcare, or real estate. That was a learning curve, but I do think the exercise of being in those accelerators was helpful because it introduced us to the science of doing business and the idea of creating a culture and a product, that vibes with consumers. From those programs, we gained a lot of mentors that would sit on the sidelines and cheer for us or give us advice. A lot of them we still work with and talk to today.

Tell us about your company culture. How do you like to lead your employees?

I think the old mindset of American business was your feelings aren’t important, and people don’t want that anymore. I don’t really blame them because you have one life to live, and you spend a significant amount of that time doing the work that you do. I know that I don’t want to do work that is not enjoyable for me, and I don’t want to hold my employees to a different standard. I believe in the ethic of reciprocity or the golden rule. You treat your employees, your customers, your partners, your investors, your vendors, and everyone around you the way that you would want to be treated if you were in their position.

That amount of empathy is something that is absent from a lot of businesses that only care about the bottom line. We consider it to be almost a double bottom line. Are we making money for our investors? Yes. Are we growing? Yes. But are we also treating our employees with kindness and empathy and respect? Are we also adding value to our communities? Are we being good neighbors? Are we putting out a product that we’re proud of? This is something I think all companies should think about. Once your employees don’t enjoy their work anymore, you don’t get them back.

What are some of the goals you have for the company?

Right now, we’re in a capital raise which is all-consuming and honestly difficult to look past. That’s the number one goal but using that capital to grow is the plan. We have very ambitious plans for expansion both nationally and regionally. Yaupon was recently named the number one food trend by Whole Foods for 2023, so we’re eyeing a national expansion to Whole Foods. We are the exclusive provider of Foxtail Coffee, which is growing very rapidly, and we hope to grow alongside them. Lastly, we have a new facility being built up in Mississippi which we hope will come alive in the next year. There are a lot of exciting things happening in the company.

Do you have a proudest moment so far?

I would go all the way back to the beginning and say my proudest moment was the first time I ever held and touched our finished product. What was once in my brain as a concept was now in my hands. Seeing it come to life even better than the way I had envisioned was awe-inspiring. That’s the magic of being an entrepreneur – turning a dream into a tangible, functioning object or service. I speak for all entrepreneurs when I say it’s where the rubber hits the road. There’s no shortage of visionaries in this world.

What does it mean to be selected as an Honoree this year?

It’s validating to see people in the community, especially our peers, who recognized what we’re doing and believed we were worthy of this award. Being a business owner is a rollercoaster of emotions. At times, it can feel like failure after failure or things constantly going wrong. Whether it’s true or not, you feel those emotions. It’s a proud feeling when someone else comes along and says, “Hey, you guys are worthy of recognition.”

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Most importantly, never compromise your values. There’s no circumstance where it’s ever worth it to do that. Secondly, don’t underestimate the need for discipline and rigor around your financials and systems. Lastly, don’t be afraid to be intuitive. People are always going to give you advice even if you didn’t ask for it. Trust your gut on what you think is right. 

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