About a year ago, I was called upon by a tea vendor to write about tisanes made from holly species. Various caffeinated infusions have been made from holly plants—guayusa, yaupon, and the granddaddy of ‘em all, yerba mate. But in my research, I ran across a beverage made from a holly plant . . . in China.
The species of holly? Ilex kudingcha (sometimes referred to as Ilex kashue). The beverage? Kuding Cha. The name translated roughly to “bitter nail tea”. As the name implies, it had a very bitter taste if over-brewed. And, like its Western cousins, it was also (quite possibly) caffeinated.
After learning of that interesting bit of information, I didn’t pay it any mind. I knew no one who carried it. But then I saw a striking picture by one of my vendor acquaintances on Instagram—Nomad Tea Merchant. They carried Kuding Cha.