Tea is comfort on a cold night and icy revitalization on a hot day. It’s a way catch up with friends or have a moment of quiet meditation. I love tea, it’s a part of my every day life. A trip to Charleston, South Carolina taught me something about tea I never realized, there is only one working tea plantation in America. I never put much thought into where my tea came from, which is odd, because I buy produce, milk, and meat from local sources as often as I can. With the discovery that Charleston Tea Plantation [6617 Maybank Hwy, Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487] produces 100% American tea, my brew just got a little closer to home.
Driving down from the populous city to the unspoiled roads of Wadmalaw Island set the mood for our adventure. Entering the plantation grounds we looked over the beautiful rows of Camellia Sinensis tea plants. South Carolina is perfect for growing tea with sandy soils, sub-tropical climate, and 52 inches of rainfall annually.
We made it to the plantation just past 10AM (opening time) on a Tuesday and the place was already packed!
Our first order of the day was to hop inside and check out the complimentary factory tour. They are self guided and run every fifteen minutes, we arrived just as one was beginning. We were directed from movie screen to movie screen learning about the history and production of tea as told by the Bigelow family. As you learn about plantation operations, you will notice beside you the equipment necessary for harvesting the tea.
Lots of interesting information. I was very happy to learn that there are no pesticides or chemicals used on the plants, but with that being said it means there is no decaffeinated tea for sale. I didn’t realize that all tea is naturally caffeinated and any decaf has chemicals in it! No worries for decaf lovers, there are a few tips inside for brewing up a perfect decaf cup naturally.
I was also impressed by the ‘green mission’ of the plantation – how they use rain and pond water to hydrate the plants and stems/fibers from tea production are used as mulch in the tea fields. After the tour we popped back out into the gift shop where we were ready for some of that fine American tea. Here you will find a variety of flavors and types of tea, hot or cold, with milk, lemon, or honey!
Take your time tasting different variations and find the perfect blend, we loved the raspberry. Peruse the gift shop filled with great tea related items, pick out your tea and any other souvenirs you may want to bring back home.
When we were on line to check out we noticed a neat map in front of us showing countries that produce tea around the world. Guatemala is the closest nation to us that produces tea, that’s quite a trek!
When we got outside we found a different kind of map pointing out the mileage to these other countries.
Walking around the grounds of the tea garden we found some history about how tea was brought to America.
We got up close and personal with some of the unique tea harvesting equipment,
and finally got a closer look at the tea plants themselves!
The plants were still dormant, harvest doesn’t begin until May, but it was really neat to see where one of my favorite drinks begins.
If you’re looking for something a bit harder afterwards, just a few minutes down the road you’ll find the popular Firefly Distillery. There you can taste sweet tea vodka, and you can rest assure that the tea is from the same plantation you just came from!
Water is the mother of tea, a teapot its father, and fire the teacher. – Chinese Proverb