Did you know that there is only one place in all of the United States that grows tea? I didn't! When I think of all the tea I drink, we all drink, and almost all of it is grown & processed overseas, I just see US dollars floating away...
Charleston Tea Plantation grows and processes tea on 127 acres on Wadmalaw Island, just outside of Charleston SC. American Classic Tea, both Black & Green, has been owned and operated by William Barclay Hall since 1987. In 2003 they joined forces with the Bigelow family to increase their capitol and continue their process. They do everything at the Plantation on Wadmalaw Island except put it into tea bags, that, they send to Bigelow to do.
When we learned that not only was there a tea plantation near Charleston, but that they gave full tours, we were there! What fun it was too! With all it's Southern charm, they put on a wonderful tour and experience at their plantation. It starts with them greeting you at their front door as a guest. The "hostess" greets you and offers you (unlimited) hot & cold tea tasting (large glasses too, not the typical tiny shots normally used for tastings) and explains that the Trolly Tour will take you out into the fields and greenhouse (free) and that there is also a Factory Tour, inside (small fee) that is offered every 15 minutes.
We opted to do the Trolly Tour first, to see how it's grown, cared for and harvested then to come back and do the Factory Tour to see how it's processed. Both were great fun and very educating. Tea plants are started by clones and not by seeds. Charleston has the best weather and soil combination to grow tea, and because it's on level ground, they can harvest it by a very large (specially made for them) machine instead of hand-pickers, which is used outside the US because it's grown on hillsides. Thus, the labor cost is kept low, and then they can afford to grow it and sell it here. I found out later that Wal-Mart sells it under their brand "American Choice Tea, in case you would like to partake.
Tours done, it was "tea-tasting time"! They had the obligatory black & green teas, but they also had a couple of other flavors, like peach. They also had what is called "First Flush". This is from the first cuttings of the tea leaves at the beginning of the season. The tea plant has had all winter long to absorb, making the first cut the strongest flavor. This, they package separately, kind of like wine! All of it tasted great, I thought. Even Jack liked the tea, so we sat on their Plantation porch, in their nice big rockers, and sipped our tea, and just soaked in the beauty in front of us...
If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:
...kicking back in South Carolina, Marie