Thursday, September 4, 2014

Charleston Tea Plantation

Our first full day in Charleston we took a trip to nearby Wadmalaw Island to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation.  We had other food adventures that day which I will share in a later post but I felt the tea plantation needed its own post, since we talk a lot about food here but not a lot about beverages. Tea is an important beverage in American history, as well as world history. And I, myself, love to have some every morning!

This is the only tea plantation in the U.S. so its pretty unique and special. It officially began in 1987 (though its history dates much further back than that) and it's home to the American Classic Tea and is partnered with Bigleow teas, which you've probably seen in your grocery store.

The tea plant first started arriving in America from China in the 1700's but American plantation owners weren't familiar enough with the plant to be successful at cultivating it until 1888.  A man named Dr. Charles Shepard founded a very successful tea plantation in Summerville, SC (not far from Charleston) and called it Pinehurst Tea. Eventually Shepard passed away and someone else bought all his tea plants, and had them tranferred to a 127-acre potato farm on Wadmalaw Island, which later became known as the Charleston Tea Plantation. It is now run by William Barclay Hall, a partner of Bigelow Family Teas, but every tea plant there today is a direct descendent of the original tea plants that belonged to Shepard in 1888!  How many other plants do you know of that can survive that long?

one of the tea plant fields that had recently been harvested

a cute little gift shop with all kinds of tea and tea accoutrements

inside the factory

This guy, Bill Hall, definitely has his chops when it comes to tea! He is a world-reknown, third-generation, expert tea taster from London, England!!! He has traveled all around the world expanding his knowledge of growing, tasting, and cultivating teas.

This is Waddy the Frog, the mascot of Wadmalaw Island. I was giving him a
little kiss, even though I already have my prince!
This is the trolley tour bus.  We ended up showing up right around lunchtime and got a private tour!
And found out our tour guide lived in Ashburn and had just recently moved to SC to retire with his wife.

I'm no tea expert or tea taster nor would I consider myself even a tea-fanatic (like some coffee drinkers I know) but I do love a good cup of tea, both hot and cold!  Coffee, I could take it or leave it and usually I'll only take it if its drowned in sugar and cream. There's something about a good cup of hot tea in the fall or winter.  Its comforting and soothing, the perfect accompaniment to a good book on a rainy or snowy day.  It relaxes me after a stressful day and it makes a lovely partner to a sweet dessert!  In the summer, I can't get enough of some Southern sweet tea!! I think its hilarious whenever we go on vacation in the South and my husband orders UNsweet tea and the waitress gives him a strange look. Whether its summer or winter, I always start my day with a cup of tea of some kind.

tea plants in a greenhouse

baby tea plants!!

A special tractor/harvester made especially for harvesting tea leaves at this plantation.
One of a kind!!

At the tea plantation, they offer loose teas and tea bags. I chose the loose teas, 1) because you get a better value for your money, and 2) because I feel you often get a stronger flavor from loose teas than from tea bags. Though I use tea bags most of the time because they are more convenient to use and whats readily available at the store, its nice when I have the opportunity to use the loose tea as well. It feels more authentic!

I picked up Plantation Peach for the summer and Cinnamon Spice for the winter!! Can't wait to try them!

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