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Is there a caffeine plant/tree I could grow in my area?

 
Cody Pickett
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Hello I'm new to the site and a total noob when it comes to growing anything. I'm really interested in growing coffee but I don't think I'll be able to grow it here so I was wondering if I could find something else that has caffine that I could grow in my area. I live in indiana, in fountain county it's an hour away from indianapolis. I'm hoping there will be something possible to grow here. I plan on trying to grow some tobacco next year.
I'm a noob to the site so if I did something wrong or posted this in the wrong place I'm sorry.  Thank you for your time hope everyone has a great day
 
Kyrt Ryder
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In hardiness zone 6 you should be able to grow Tea [Camellia Sinensis] in an unheated greenhouse that's loaded with thermal mass and reasonably insulated. Some varieties might survive outdoors but you're at the extreme edge of that possibility.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yaupon Holly Ilex vomitoria should grow there.  https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_ilvo.pdf
 
Cody Pickett
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Wow thanks for the fast response guys. Well which of the 2 listed would you suggest a noob like me to try to get into?
 
Cody Pickett
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Yaupon Holly Ilex vomitoria should grow there.  https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_ilvo.pdf


After reading that pfd Tyler I think this would be the one that's better for a noob. Would you guys agree?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Oh shucks.  It looks like Yaupon may only be marginally hardy in your area - maybe could be planted in a warm spot?  http://hort.ufl.edu/trees/ILEVOMA.pdf
 
Cody Pickett
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Oh shucks.  It looks like Yaupon may only be marginally hardy in your area - maybe could be planted in a warm spot?  http://hort.ufl.edu/trees/ILEVOMA.pdf


you got my hopes up haha!!! Well where do I go from here?
 
Cody Pickett
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So are these the only others with caffine? Or just the only ones that I have a chance growing or are there more?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think tea and yaupon are the most cold-hardy plants that contain caffeine.  Others seem to be subtropical or tropical.
 
Cody Pickett
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Well of the 2 what do you think I'd have a better chance/experience with?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yaupon is the most cold hardy, so I would try first with that, personally.   I think it is also much less fussy as to soil and water needs compared to Tea, from what I'm reading.

 
Cody Pickett
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I guess that's my best option then. Either way even if I fail I will learn from it so no loss really but a couple bucks for seeds. Thank you everyone. Am I supposed to end the thread or say it's solved or do I just leave it open?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Looks like it's solved, but other people might want to add their own experiences with growing these plants, and give you more ideas about how you might do it.

 
Anne Miller
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My first thought was Chicory since it is a coffee substitute.  And yes it grows in Indiana, so you might be able to find some growing wild.

Purdue University list of Herb, Aromatic, Medicinal, Bioactive Crops

Here are some comments when I tried to search for what plants have caffeine:

Caffeine isn't a primary compound in plants. It doesn't serve a function that a plant naturally needs to live. Therefore you will be hard pressed to find many plants that contain caffeine in the wild. Almost all caffeine comes from either seeds or leaves. Only about 100 plants contain some form of caffeine, most being minimal. Probably people with expertise locally with edible plants could help you more, I just know caffeine isn't primarily found in a lot of North American plants.

The plant with the most caffeine in North America is the Ilex vomitoria and various varieties of said. It's the North American equivalent of Yerba Mate. Don't let the name bother you. The Indians made an extra strong brew for ceremonies to induce vomiting. In every day use they made a milder brew with steamed green leaves and lightly roasted leaves. Details are on my website.

Three common commercial varieties of Ilex vomitoria are Ilex nana and Ilex schiller (female and male dwarf versions for hedging) and Ilex vomitoria var. pendula (an ornamental which if fed nitrogen has more caffeine than any plant.)

According to Jim Pojar, in his book "Plants Of The Pacific Northwest Coast," The dried ground up seeds of Scotchbroom (classified invasive in Oregon, don't know about your part of the region) can be used as a coffee substitute.

After many years at this it has been my experience that nothing is a substitute for coffee. One plant, goosegrass, hmmm, Galium aparine, comes close in flavor but no caffeine. It is in the same family as coffee, oddly, and its roasted seeds are coffeesque. Add some Ilex vomitoria leaves and you might have a famine coffee substitute with caffeine. But it ain't coffee. Close, but no cigar.

Brooms, which a non-native, are usually listed as toxic.

We used to roast barley then grind it to mix with our coffee, it lowers the caffeine and greatly reduces the price of your coffee.

My parents roasted barley during the Great Depression as a coffee substitute.

Today we buy roasted barley at the grocery store. Mix it 50/50 with coffee grounds. It costs $1.29/pound.

We have been growing mint for years, which we harvest and dry. We use mint in our teas and many cooking recipes.

This year we planted chamomile and tea-trees. So we hope to produce them both in the future.


 
Cody Pickett
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Anne Miller wrote:My first thought was Chicory since it is a coffee substitute.  And yes it grows in Indiana, so you might be able to find some growing wild.

Purdue University list of Herb, Aromatic, Medicinal, Bioactive Crops

Here are some comments when I tried to search for what plants have caffeine:

Caffeine isn't a primary compound in plants. It doesn't serve a function that a plant naturally needs to live. Therefore you will be hard pressed to find many plants that contain caffeine in the wild. Almost all caffeine comes from either seeds or leaves. Only about 100 plants contain some form of caffeine, most being minimal. Probably people with expertise locally with edible plants could help you more, I just know caffeine isn't primarily found in a lot of North American plants.

The plant with the most caffeine in North America is the Ilex vomitoria and various varieties of said. It's the North American equivalent of Yerba Mate. Don't let the name bother you. The Indians made an extra strong brew for ceremonies to induce vomiting. In every day use they made a milder brew with steamed green leaves and lightly roasted leaves. Details are on my website.

Three common commercial varieties of Ilex vomitoria are Ilex nana and Ilex schiller (female and male dwarf versions for hedging) and Ilex vomitoria var. pendula (an ornamental which if fed nitrogen has more caffeine than any plant.)

According to Jim Pojar, in his book "Plants Of The Pacific Northwest Coast," The dried ground up seeds of Scotchbroom (classified invasive in Oregon, don't know about your part of the region) can be used as a coffee substitute.

After many years at this it has been my experience that nothing is a substitute for coffee. One plant, goosegrass, hmmm, Galium aparine, comes close in flavor but no caffeine. It is in the same family as coffee, oddly, and its roasted seeds are coffeesque. Add some Ilex vomitoria leaves and you might have a famine coffee substitute with caffeine. But it ain't coffee. Close, but no cigar.

Brooms, which a non-native, are usually listed as toxic.

We used to roast barley then grind it to mix with our coffee, it lowers the caffeine and greatly reduces the price of your coffee.

My parents roasted barley during the Great Depression as a coffee substitute.

Today we buy roasted barley at the grocery store. Mix it 50/50 with coffee grounds. It costs $1.29/pound.

We have been growing mint for years, which we harvest and dry. We use mint in our teas and many cooking recipes.

This year we planted chamomile and tea-trees. So we hope to produce them both in the future.




Thanks for the detailed message.  I do like your idea of cutting the coffee with barley I might try that sometime. So to sum it up do you think I could pull it off or no? Growing vomitoria I mean
 
Cody Pickett
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I will also look into chicory thank you!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Chicory does not contain caffeine.
 
Anne Miller
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Most of those were just comments I found but you can grow it indoors in a pot. 

Yerba Mate
 
John Weiland
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Just an FYI.  If it's the caffeine that is important, there may be a fungal source down the road that could be added back to a brew of your choice:

"Caffeine, a notable alkaloid in tea (Camellia sinensis L.) (Theaceae) and coffee (Coffea arabica L.) (Rubiaceae) with important physiological, sociological and commercial implications, is also produced by plants such as "mate" (Ilex paraguariensis St. H.) (Aquifoliaceae), "guaraná" (Paullinia cupana Mart.) (Sapindaceae) and "cola" (Cola acuminata Schott & Endl.) (Sterculiaceae) (Harborne et al., 1999). Recently, caffeine has even been found in anthers of Citrus spp. (Kretschmar & Baumann, 1999). Caffeine is biosynthesised from adenine and methionine in tea (Suzuki & Takahashi, 1976). Fungi have not previously been recognized as having the genome for such types of alkaloidal secondary metabolites, which are unique purine derivatives without a pentose, although Turner (1971) mentions a small group of adenosine derivatives containing a pentose, notably including cordycepin from Cordyceps militaris (Fr.) Link and Aspergillus nidulans Link. Ergot fungi (Claviceps sp.), taxonomically close to Cordyceps sp., usually produce classical ergot alkaloids based on the tetracyclic ergoline ring system. However, analysis of C. sorghi sclerotia and submerged culture identified a polar component as the alkaloid caffeine, which was identified by its characteristic electron impact mass spectrum (GC-MS)."

from:  http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0100-41582003000400019
 
Thekla McDaniels
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And, if summer doesn't come and you aren't producing  caffeine, once you are over the withdrawal from caffeine, maybe you would be quite happy with a robust flavor like roasted chicory and or roasted barley.  You could maybe get started growing those and experimenting with them, then keep a few months supply of coffee or tea on hand.  If summer doesn't come, begin the transition to your substitutes.  

Aren't there other stimulants?  Not that coca is legal, but it's an example.  Cocoa has theobromine, a stimulant (I have no idea how it compares to caffeine, but it is very active, a derivative or sister compound historically and possibly currently used to treat asthma).  Cacao is probably not a temperate plant either but I am just trying to say there are other stimulants.

Possibly a search through plant databases could yield some herbal stimulants that do not have a high abuse potential, and are easy to grow.   Possibly there are plenty of stimulants that have been eclipsed by the caffeine in tea and coffee.  It seems like most plants have one form of alkaloid or another.
 
Lee Bewicke
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:In hardiness zone 6 you should be able to grow Tea [Camellia Sinensis] in an unheated greenhouse that's loaded with thermal mass and reasonably insulated. Some varieties might survive outdoors but you're at the extreme edge of that possibility.

There is a tea house/ farm in Ithica new york growing tea outside. I believe they planted seed from the moutain regions of China.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I just did a quick search for plants that produce stimulants, found this page:

http://www.motherherbs.com/stimulant.html

with this info:

"Stimulants are herbs that increase alertness, wakefulness, energy and feeling of wellbeing. In addition to stimulating the central nervous system, most stimulants also increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and produce a sense of euphoria. Stimulants increases blood pressure, heart beat rate and respiration.

Stimulants mainly used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems. Stimulants can be used as recreational drugs or therapeutic drugs to increase alertness. They are also used and sometimes abused to boost endurance and productivity as well as to suppress appetite."


and a long list of plants.

The list includes some plants I am familiar with, Datura / Jimson Weed among them, which I have always been told is a very powerful plant (mother said poisonous others say sacred, so we know what that means).  Anyone looking for stimulants from this list would need to research the effects of the plant VERY carefully.

On the other hand, the list is a good starting place for a search for various stimulant herbs, and for anyone interested in medicine from plants.  Plenty of the plants on the list are "tropical " plants, but one I grow, vetiver, which although tropical, grows in 5 gallon pots quite well, and in protected warm places just for the massive root systems to get deep soil development.  I have been growing it for the fragrant roots, but now I have learned that I can make tea from the roots.  I can't wait to try it.

Then there is Nigella sativa, also known as black cumin and "love in a mist".   An annual that reseeds itself readily, needs almost no soil, and is used as a filler and an easy ornamental.  I have used it as a "weed preventer".  It comes in thick where ever it gets a chance, making it difficult for anything else to grow.  It has very shallow roots making it easy to pull up when it is in the way.

Also on the list, by its scientific name, is what most people call "puncture vine" or "goat heads".  Interesting uses for that plant as well. 

An important  thing to note is that though I had in mind stimulant as in caffeine, this list is of plants that stimulate a multitude of different body functions, not just increased blood flow to the brain and increased blood pressure and insulin secretion.

Depending what else happens today, I may take my search further, as I am enjoying it so much.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:The list includes some plants I am familiar with, Datura / Jimson Weed among them, which I have always been told is a very powerful plant (mother said poisonous others say sacred, so we know what that means).  Anyone looking for stimulants from this list would need to research the effects of the plant VERY carefully.

I once met a German guy who had been permanently damaged by trying datura recreationally just a single time. He said he doesn't remember several weeks afterwards, and it took him weeks to regain the manual dexterity to tie his own shoes. No chance of resuming his machinist career, and when I knew him, he was a pretty spaced out, damaged person, a couple of years after the datura incident.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Yes, very strong effects.  I also once met a guy who had tried it.  (backup  fire fighter at the station where I worked, came on stand-by while some of our crew was on a fire) He said he sat motionless on the couch for a day or day and a half.  I asked him didn't his roommates want to take him to the ER or anything and he said no, they knew what he was trying.  (early 70s when I had the conversation with him)  I concluded he must have been into big time recreational drug use.... and his "friends" as well.

I guess the only difference between "total" recovery, permanent damage,  and death would be the amount ingested.

I also know that the pre european tribes in California considered it a holy plant and its wide range was considered to be because they had transported the seeds and introduced them all over everywhere.  And when they used the plant they had the benefit of generations of traditional use, and followed those traditions "religiously".
 
Dan Boone
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I am interested in the very long list of things that have been roasted and ground to be brewed up as a "substitute" for coffee, which in most cases means they make a flavorful dark brew to drink when coffee is unobtainable.  My notion is that if a person could grow one of the caffeine plants, you might still want to then mix that plant with the best of the "dark brew" substitutes, or possible with a mixture of them.

Today I was pulling okra seeds out of a pod I let mature in order to make the seeds, when I began to wonder if okra seeds could be grown to maturity and used like soup peas or beans.  I am still researching that, but I did discover that back in the day, okra seeds had their fans as a "makes a dark brew" non-caffeinated coffee substitute:





( source )
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Wow, Dan, where did you ever come up with that Civil War era newspaper clipping?  Great stuff, thanks for posting.

Though the thread is about caffeine plants, in my area it is easier to give up the caffeine habit than grow my own.  The tea camellia would possibly grow here, but would need some tending to protect from dry desert air and harsh desert sun.  If I did grow tea, I would  have to do just as you said, use a little with a lot of something else.  Something like okra seeds!
 
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Wow, Dan, where did you ever come up with that Civil War era newspaper clipping?
  It came up on a blog at the University of North Carolina when I was searching on "okra seeds as food" and similar searches.
 
Dan Boone
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I don't think this is practical but I may have a theoretical caffeine plant to add to the temperate list. 

There's a free-to-download .pdf at this page analyzing in some detail the amount of caffeine and related purine alkaloid compounds (including theobromine, the good stuff in chocolate) in citrus flowers.  Now, mostly citrus is not a temperate plant, but they also analyzed the near-citrus Poncirus trifoliata (trifoliate orange) which I am growing here in zone 7 and which is said to be hardy to zone 6.

The study uses serious chemist units (nmols per gram to the negative 1 exponent) that I can't easily compare the milligram units usually used to discuss the amount of caffeine in a coffee bean.  But there's a bit of a road map in there.  At one point they generalize that one citrus flower contains about fifty micrograms of caffeine, and if I'm reading their table correctly, the trifoliate orange has about half as much as the average of the four citrus they measured, so let's say 25 micrograms.  If there's six milligrams in the average roasted Arabica coffee bean, that implies you'd need pick about 240 citrus flowers to replace the caffeine in one coffee bean. 

My trifoliate oranges aren't to the flowering stage yet and I have never seen one of the "mother" trees where I got my seed when they are in flower.  But they are thorny trees and I'm guessing the price in blood you would pay to pick the flowers is way too high by the time you had enough.  Darn it!
 
Erica Wisner
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There was another good thread like this a few years ago: http://permies.com/t/23695/grows-northern-Ontario-caffeine

I have not done this experiment, so these are all curiosity-based research.

I am more of a tea drinker, myself, so it makes sense to me to broaden this search into the wider category of hot drinks.
I personally think of dried spices and herbs as one of the more acceptable categories of exotic imports - very low-weight, a little goes a long way, they have medicinal properties, and spices and tea were historically transported as trade goods long before fossil-fuels.  My indulgences in chocolate and carob don't merit quite the same facile justification, but I am still unlikely to give them up while supplies remain available.

Coffee's qualities:
- caffeine - widely regarded as "wake-up juice," it's also a diuretic.  Part of its alertness effect is counterproductive: the habituated body gets more easily tired without it. 
So it's more like putting your alertness on "manual" or "key-controlled" rather than "automatic" (automatic might be getting off the caffeine, instead letting your body use daylight, alarm or stress, or sufficient rest to determine the state of alertness).
- brown, toasty flavor
- complex bitters (like dark chocolate, quinine, or some medicinal herbs)
- hot, warming liquid

Plant options, in order of easiest to more caffeine:

First, consider Vitamin D as an important antidote to winter depression.  If your schedule doesn't allow getting outside in the sun enough, and you don't want to take commercial supplements, consider preparing sunned edible mushrooms - common button mushrooms, as well as fancier ones like oyster mushrooms or porcini, can generate Vitamin D if laid gills-up in the sun prior to consumption.   vitamin D makes it a lot easier for me to get going on winter mornings.

When I'm taking a break from caffeine, I like mint.  It's a perky herbal tea, opens up the respiratory tract, and feels like it gives me a short-term burst of wakefulness without the few-hours-later crash of caffeine.
Lots of mints will grow with or without shelter to Zone 5 and colder.  Try a "chocolate mint" for a complex flavor that goes well with milk, or spearmint or peppermint for a stronger flavor from less space.  Most mints will spread like crazy (underground rhizomes), so you might use a buried pot or isolated bed between driveways if you want to keep your other crops/lawns mint-free. 

One down side is that mints are cooling - they're exquisite in summer for iced teas, or a summer cooler with a little melon or cucumber mashed with mint and cold water, but the same property might not be so welcome on a chilly winter morning. 
Citrus, fruit, or spice teas are more warming - you could probably grow fennel, or even licorice, and stretch your exotic fruit budget by saving the peels of oranges or lemons for a citrus/"anise" tea. 
Rose hips, spruce tips, & fennel might be a palatable northern substitute for citrus spices: lots of Vitamin C, and a hint of sweet spice from the fennel, for winter mornings.  Various peppery plants could be included for a more chai-like flavor.
I've also done a tea with marshmallow root, dried pears, woolly mullen leaves, and ginger as a respiratory-health booster.  The ginger wasn't local but there are native "wild ginger" plants in the NW that can be used for spice.

I don't see any evidence for common Camelia Japonica being a caffeine-providing plant, but its flowers are listed as edible (http://www.herbsarespecial.com.au/self-sufficiency/edible-flowers-in-your-garden.html).  And as they're in the same family as the tea plant, Camelia Sinesis, I might be tempted to include some dark-pink dried petals in an herbal tea "just for color." Maybe they'd give a little caff boost too.  Camelias are hardy in coastal Oregon (frost zone and the Interwebs say that some varieties are hardy to Zone 6 (http://www.camforest.com/category_s/63.htm).

They also say that crunching on a fresh apple wakes you up better than coffee.  but that's not what you asked about.

For coffee substitutes that grow in the north: I've seen varying reports about bedstraw/cleavers/gallium ssp - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galium_aparine
Some sources say it has less caffeine than coffee, some say it has none.  May be the different species have different amounts, or that people may assume it has caffeine because it is related to coffee, or that it has none because it is an "herb."
But it does grow like a weed (it is a weed) in most temperate gardens - I've seen it from Oregon to Texas, slightly less prolific in our Zone 4 gardens in the inland NW, but still viable.  Supposed to also be one from this plant family that can be used to make a mild rennet substitute for cheese-making - so if you're harvesting piles of it, that's another possible use.

The really famous caffeine plants do seem to be mostly tropical.  https://natureshalfacre.wordpress.com/plants/stimulating-plants-i-species-with-caffeine-and-theobromine/
The same site offers caffeine-less "coffee substitutes" that include more northern plants: https://natureshalfacre.wordpress.com/plants/stimulating-beverages-ii-coffee-plants-without-caffeine/

I don't know anything about the Ilex species, but the possibility sounds interesting for northern hardiness.

Yours,
Erica
 
Erica Wisner
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note about Ilex vomitoria - this guy says it's only hardy to zone 7, like Camelia sinesis (tea).  http://theprepperproject.com/how-to-grow-your-own-caffeine/
Microclimates and potted plants can stretch that a bit of course, but if you're new to gardening, growing exotics that don't like your climate seems like a tough way to start.

I'm sceptical about getting up at night to nurse delicate plants with hot bricks or row-covers, to make it "easier" to get up in the morning. 
I don't think I could grow enough coffee this way to be able to drink it every day.  Any slip and frost-kill could cancel the whole experiment at any point.
I think it might actually be less work to backpack south for the winter with a donkey or alpaca, and come back with 50 lbs of dried beans.

If I only drink coffee once every few months, it's a Godsend on long road trips, and I definitely feel the effect.  If I drink black tea or a little coffee every day, the effect is much less pronounced. (I swap in herbal tea a few times a week, just to lessen any addiction I might be cultivating.  So far, no headaches, unless I don't drink anything liquid at all.)

I prefer not to reach the point where I need caffeine just to function.  Like the guy (almost) admits in the above link, addiction is not your friend.

However, as he also points out, the last handful of coffee beans in a region would be a decadent luxury, one that could bring unlooked-for allies or customers.
The only reason I can think of to grow coffee out of its natural climate while transcontinental trade is still providing it cheaply would be to cultivate a cold hardy varietal -now THAT would be mega trade goods in a post-transportation world.

-Erica
 
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Growing up I had relatives that for religious reasons shunned stimulants. They would make chickpea coffee. The chickpeas were roasted on the stovetop. An iron skillet and a wooden spoon was all that was needed. Low to medium heat and stir until the peas looked like roasted coffee. They also drank Postum, sort of an instant coffee. So, no caffeine but a taste close to coffee.
 
Nicholas Green
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Yaupon Holly Ilex vomitoria should grow there.  https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_ilvo.pdf


I guess it was a brilliant scientist who gave it the latin name of vomit-oria.

Also from the above PDF:
"...used medicinally to induce vomiting..."     the very next sentence     "...used socially as a drink or offering to indicate friendly intentions..."
But when I drink and throw up at peoples houses it's frowned upon. They should consider it a compliment.
 
Dan Boone
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All of the sources I've found so far on the internet about the ethno-botanical history of Ilex vomitoria repeat essentially the same two or three sentences, chopped up and rearranged in various way.  I haven't been able to track down any serious references to primary sources for the information, so the suspicion is that everybody is Googling everybody else and just repeating the scant info that seems to be "known".   Prior to the internet, the same thing happened a lot in scholarly articles; some one or two sentences got written a hundred years ago somewhere and those sentences get repeated and referenced endlessly until the original citation is utterly forgotten and lost to all but the most diligent scholars.

But as the very limited info we have seems to parse, there appears to have been a ceremonial brew called something like "the black drink" that, in combination with fasting and ritual, did cause vomiting, sometimes quite spectacularly.  Whether Ilex vomitoria was truly one of the ingredients in black drink and, if it was, whether it was the emetic ingredient, both seem to be rather uncertain.  And finally, there appears to have been a socially-consumed beverage made from it -- a totally separate use -- and no reports of vomiting are attached to this use. 

The Latin name seems to have been assigned by someone who was aware of the "black drink" reputation, and not because of any well-documented emetic properties.
 
Zachary Fellows
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This may or may not be helpful.  I have 8 coffee plants and live in zone 5 in Massachusetts.  I've had them for about 3 years and of course I have to bring them indoors for the winter.  They haven't produced any beans or flowers yet but they are only about 3 feet tall now.  Anyway they are attractive plants/shrubs.
 
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