Apparently, Americans have been caffeinating themselves for much longer than previously thought, reports The New York Times. Artifacts found in Cahoika, located around modern day St. Louis and called “North America’s first city,” suggest that ancient peoples brewed a ceremonial tea from holly leaves. "It's always described by Europeans and people who have consumed it as something tasting like tea," researcher Thomas Emerson, director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, told LiveScience.
Interestingly, the Yaupon holly, which they used to make this drink in beakers, grew more than 300 miles to the south of their settlement. This black drink was used during purification ceremonies before important occasions such as war parties, and religious or political events. Interestingly, it was also known as the "vomit drink" because it caused vomiting in those who drank it in large quantities, thus cleansing them from within. (Sure makes you want some now, huh?)
Finding the remnants of this drink has given these archaeologists further insight into the importance of this ancient city. The primary ingredient was grown far away from Cahokia, which suggests an extensive trade network with surrounding peoples. Furthermore, the role this drink played in religious ceremonies informs researchers about the spiritual aspects of daily life in Cahokia. "We postulate that this new pattern of agricultural religious symbolism is tied to the rise of Cahokia, and now we have black drink to wash it down with," Emerson said.
This new discovery will likely only encourage more research about this mysterious group. "We're not sure when Native Americans stopped using black drink," said Emerson. "I think its use went more into the closet, due to pressure from Europeans to drop pagan practices." Some archaeologists now hypothesize that the use of the black drink could date back even further, to the time of Christ.