Arrive for Tea Time

The Charleston Tea Plantation: cool on the coast.

In the South, iced tea is not just a summertime drink – it’s served year round with most meals. It is the wine of Dixie. And here in South Carolina, the connection with tea is especially strong.

It’s the first place in the United States where tea was grown and it’s the only state that produces tea commercially. You can see the process in person during a pleasant day trip to the country’s only tea plantation, 20 miles west of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island. There you’ll find the Charleston Tea Plantation, a 127-acre working farm that’s the home of American Classic Tea.

Wadmalaw Island (just saying that name is a pleasure) provides the perfect environment for propagating tea. With its sandy soils, sub-tropical climate and average rainfall of 52 inches per year, Wadmalaw provides idyllic conditions for Camellia Sinensis. This plant produces both black and green teas and more than 320 varieties grow on the plantation, which bills itself as ‘America’s Only Tea Garden.’

Take the factory tour where flat-screen televisions guide you down a glass viewing area overlooking the factory. Inhale the heady aroma of fresh tea processing. Learn about the production of their American Classic Tea, the Charleston Tea Plantation’s story and tea’s colorful history. (In colonial days the British went to China to buy tea plants but the Chinese sold them camellias instead, an easy ruse since camellias and tea plants are botanical cousins. That’s how we got camellias!)

Take the 35- to 40-minute trolley tour and enjoy a scenic ride around the 127-acre farm. William Barclay Hall, founder of American Classic Tea and world renowned Tea Taster, narrates the tour. He’ll educate you about the history of America’s tea garden while challenging your knowledge of tea. A tea bush can live 600 years, and it takes five pounds of leaves to produce a pound of tea.

Walk the grounds. Stop by the Propagation Hut and read how the plantation selects the best quality plants for new acreage through cloning. Browse the shop where a variety of products feature tea ingredients and connections.

Bring the family, pack a lunch and see the beautiful tea fields. The Charleston Tea Plantation offers a unique Lowcountry experience, one you’ll appreciate all summer as you sip sweet iced tea.

Learn more about Tom Poland, a southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]

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