A Chemical Study of the Tea Industry in South Carolina

Tea field (stock image)
Tea field (stock image)

When you think of the great tea-producing regions of the world, South Carolina is probably one of the first that springs to mind.

Okay, maybe not. If the truth be told, in spite of all of its many achievements, the United States has never been a player when it comes to tea production. Or tea consumption, for that matter, though we drink our fair share of the stuff – mostly in iced form.

But growers in South Carolina have been fiddling around with tea on a small scale for more than two and a half centuries and to this day the Charleston Tea Plantation maintains a modest but apparently thriving operation there. In 1996, the South Carolina legislature recognized the fact that “South Carolina is the first place in the United States where tea was grown” by making it “the official hospitality beverage of the State.”

So while most of the old tea books I look at in these pages deal with tea production and culture in such powerhouse growing countries as China and India, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise to find such a volume that takes a look at the tea industry – such as it was – in South Carolina.

A Chemical Study of the Tea Industry in South Carolina, by F.S. Shiver, first saw the light of day in 1905. The modest volume only totals 32 pages and you can find it at your favorite site for accessing free electronic versions of older books, including this one. Though it was billed as Part 1, my search for a second part was fruitless.

Even though it’s a slim piece of work, Shiver’s book (pamphlet?) is interesting in that it looks at a tea-producing region that’s not covered as often as many of the big names. The author kicks things off with a brief look at tea history in China and then jumps right to the same as concerns the United States, where he dates the introduction of tea to 1848. According to a chart he provides, the U.S. was eighth in annual tea production at the time, with the one million pound harvest ranking it right after Patagonia, of all places.

From there we’re given some more stats on commerce and then it’s on to the botany of tea. Not surprisingly, given the title, most of the rest of the proceedings are concerned with various aspects of growing tea. Which doesn’t make for the zippiest reading experience, but overall this one is worth a look for the novelty factor alone.

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