Guayusa Upina- The Kichwa’s ancestral guayusa tea ceremony

Guayusa Upina- The Kichwa’s ancestral guayusa tea ceremony
The guayusa we enjoy at home has been a staple resource for survival in the Amazonian jungle. This week, we will explore how the pioneers of this sacred leaf still use guayusa with their morning routine daily, preserving their culture and traditions.

Ecuador is home to 98% of the world’s guayusa trees, where it has grown for thousands of years throughout the rainforest. With an array of health benefits, coupled with a bold and natural sweet taste, guayusa is more than just a plant. 

Embedded in their traditions, cultures and stories lies the guayusa leaf, a trusted companion that provides natural energy, antioxidants and adaptogens. For the Kichwa, guayusa is their source of life, and it incorporates their ancestral knowledge with modern society. 

Guayusa Upina: the morning tea ceremony

Fun fact: upina is a word in the Runa Shimi (Kichwa) language, and it is also common to refer to this plant as Wayusa. Wayusa Upina englobes everything: from the community gathering, to the action of drinking guayusa.

This ritual has been practiced for more than two thousand years, and holds a strong bond between dreams and their interpretation. Every morning at 4 a.m, members of the tribe bundle and boil dried guayusa leaves over an open fire. The entire tribe gathers and shares the previous night’s dreams with the taita (old wise men), while the women prepare the guayusa over the fire in large clay pots. They steep the leaves in hot water, producing a dark, more concentrated tea than what is brewed at home. This tea is treasured for the unique taste and flavors, and harmonious balance of antioxidants, amino acids, and natural caffeine.


As the group continues to share, the taita starts finding meaning behind everyone's dreams, sharing stories and lessons. The guayusa is served in pilches, or small coconut-like shell cups, where everyone passes it along and drinks. With an energy boost the community starts planning the day ahead based on the intersection and messages in everyone’s dreams. everyone's dreams.

More than the ritual, it’s grown and cultivation generates income, allowing these Indigenous groups to protect their way of life and preserve their home, the Amazon rainforest. Learning to cultivate this magical plant over many years in the Amazon’s rich and fertile soil, the Kichwa carefully hand pick the leaves and are left to dry naturally. 

Guayusa trees grow naturally using the practice of agroforestry, where trees are grown amongst crops and pasture land. The Indegenous Kichwa of the Amazon are creating positive and sustainable interactions with the land, and the wildlife that surrounds them.  


Today, there are many companies who are supporting the Kichwa peoples and their mission for sustainability in the rainforest.  By choosing guayusa you’re not only taking care of your mind and body, but you’re supporting Indigenous tribes as they grow and deliver this sacred plant to all corners of the globe. 

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