The Karankawas of the Texas coast get a bad rap regarding cannibalism.
While they did partake of the other "other white meat," it was ritualistic. Meant to impart the fine traits of the vanquished to the vanquisher.
The Tonkawas, on the other hand, relished a hearty Comanche stew...Comanche being the main ingredient and not the origin of the recipe. Noah Smithwick, who witnessed its preparation and consumption, called it, "the most revolting mess my eyes ever rested on."
But back to the Karankawas.
They were not like other Texas tribes. Some speculate they were descended from Caribs of the West Indies.
The men were of NBA stature. Their skin tone more copper than red. The faces of the warriors were heavily tattooed and each nipple, as well as the lower lip, was pierced with a small piece of cane.
They greased themselves head to toe with strong smelling shark's liver oil to keep mosquitoes away and let their coarse black hair hang to their waists untied. They also practiced skull flattening during childhood, leaving adults with bizarrely elongated heads.
Not your typical tea sippers, however you define the term.
But they did love their tea.
It was brewed from the leaves of the yaupon holly, which grows in sandy soil along the coast.
Yaupon is the only North American plant that contains a significant amount of caffeine. In fact, a cup brewed from young, tender leaves will contain more caffeine than a cup of coffee.
It also contains theobromine, the compound responsible for some folks being willing to work for chocolate.
Add to that the fact that it contains almost no tannins (which produces the bitterness in coffee and tea) and you have a very pleasant, invigorating drink.
Also known as cassina, or cassine, early Texans enjoyed it with sugar and milk when there was no coffee to be had, as was the case during the civil war. Some Confederate soldiers even came to prefer their "Texas Tea" and would snub coffee when it could be had again.
Of course everything has a dark side and the dark side of yaupon tea was The Black Drink.
The Karankawas (and other coastal tribes) made this devil's brew by boiling down large quantities of yaupon until they were left with a thick black decoction.
The Black Drink was permitted only to men and was used for purification before battle. Warriors poured vast amounts of this vile liquor down their throats until they began to sweat profusely and vomit.
That's how yaupon holly gets its Latin name: Ilex Vomitoria.
Thus purged of all impurity, the warrior was ready to meet his foe...and if victorious, his meal.
You can read about Noah Smithwick's experience with Texas cannibals in his book, Recollections of Old Texas Days.