When you think of great tea-growing regions, quite frankly, the United States is not going to be one of them. This has always been the case and most likely always will. Americans are also not among the world’s top tea drinkers. What we do consume tends to be in the form of iced tea and it almost always imported from somewhere else.
Somewhere else, in most cases, is likely to be China, India or Kenya, the world’s top three tea-growing nations. For more on this topic refer to Who Grows Your Tea, an article posted here not so long ago.
There are currently a few very small-scale efforts to grow tea in the United States. For more on that topic refer to Tea In The USA, another article that was recently posted in these pages. As noted in that article, the oldest and most significant of these tea growing projects is the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is located on Wadmalaw Island in South Carolina and which bills itself as “America’s Only Tea Garden”.
Thanks to its sultry climate South Carolina is actually one of the 50 states that has a history of growing tea, one that, although it never reached a significant level, actually goes back several hundred years. The Charleston Tea Plantation got underway just before the turn of the nineteenth century and found its fortunes rising and falling throughout that century. In 2003, the Bigelow family, of Bigelow Tea fame, purchased the Charleston Tea Plantation and are still owners of the garden to this day.
Tea grown on the Plantation’s 127-acres is blended with imported black teas and sold under the brand name American Classic Tea. The Plantation also turns out a modest quantity of single-estate, first flush tea and for the past few years has been celebrating this occasion with a First Flush Festival.
For those who happen to make it to the Plantation, highlights include trolley tours of the garden and a working tea factory and a gift shop. If you can’t make it but would still like to try some homegrown American tea you can order it at the Plantation’s web site.