Monday, May 19, 2008

Charleston Tea Plantation - Part 1


My 2008 birthday season is now officially over (and thanks for all the nice b'day wishes!), and the best gift of all came this weekend when my sweet husband indulged me with a trip to the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, S.C. for the First Flush Festival! You know it's a trip you've genuinely looked forward to when you do the tacky tourist thing and even roll down the car window just to get a picture of the entrance sign. I was amused to see the road sign (top photo) reading "American Classic Tea Ln."

The tickets were ordered and received long ago (DH said he wanted to be sure they didn't sell out), and when we arrived we learned that for $5 more we could begin our day with a trolley tour of the tea fields.

Of course we had to do that, and our guide was a nice gentleman with a good working knowledge of the Charleston Tea Plantation's operation and history. He was kind enough to even stop the trolley and allow me to snap some photos of the rows of tea plants.


Suddenly, those two tea "hedges" I saw here in Georgia a few weeks ago didn't seem quite so impressive anymore! The Charleston Tea Plantation is about 127 acres.

At other tea plantations around the world, workers pluck the leaves by hand. Here, they use a unique piece of harvesting machinery known as the "Green Giant." See how the business end of the machine rises over the top of the row? It uses a scissor-like cutting action to cut just the top few inches of new growth on the tea plants. On Festival Day on Saturday, all around the place were samples of this spring's "First Flush" of tea available to drink. And this tea really did taste especially fresh and delicious.

That's enough for today, so drop by tomorrow and I'll wrap up this little mini-tour with a bit about how they manufacture the tea. And those of you who've been before, feel free to share your own impressions if you like!

6 comments:

parTea lady said...

My visit to the tea plantation was April 18/07. I guess we were a little too early for the first flush celebration. It was very interesting to see the whole tea manufacturing process. Mr. Hall was there and did speak to some of the visitors that day. I only saw him speeding across the fields on his open vehicle with his long blondish hair flying in the wind. I would have liked to meet a professional tea taster.

The harvesting machine is quite unique, isn't it? Did you get to see the Green Giant in operation? I did read that there are two experimental tea farms in Oregon and Hawaii. I must do some research on that.

I look forward to your next post and your views on the actual tea manufacturing tour. If you're anything like me, you didn't get away from the gift shop empty handed either.

Rosemary said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos. This is a destination that is on my 'must visit' list... some day!
Nancy

Ginger said...

Looking forward to tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your visit with us. Ever since I found out about the Tea Plantation, I've wanted to visit. One day we will get back to Charleston.

Frivolitea said...

I visited there last summer and was in absolute heaven - touring the fields and learning about the process of manufacturing tea. I also purchased plenty of mementos in the gift shop. It is a funny coincidence, but I referenced that trip on my blog today when I wrote about some jewelry picturing leaves from the tea fields.

Steph said...

Wow - I am so happy that you got to go! Thanks for the great photos! I am jealous, too! I have never been but plan to - hopefully, soon!

Chuck M said...

Thanks for all you put into your blog. I'd love to drink tea from the US. Are there plantations or companies in the US that make good black tea?? BTW, what do you think of the chance I'd find old copies of a Fortnum & Mason book or catalogue in Raleigh NC -a library, tea or specialty shop, or someone you know in Raleigh who has copies?