It is always fun to learn something new about the history of tea in America, so I am absolutely delighted with an item I recently purchased online, this August 1893 issue of American Agriculturist magazine. The cover features images from Pinehurst Tea Gardens in Summerville, S.C. and an article by Dr. Charles Shepard, its founder. If you've ever visited the Charleston Tea Plantation at Wadmalaw Island, S.C., you may have learned that tea plants from Pinehurst were eventually transplanted to the Charleston Tea Plantation.
Shepard's article is titled "Tea Culture in the United States," and it begins, "During the last year, and for the first time in the history of the United States—so far as I am informed—tea was raised and cured on an American farm, and successfully sold in our own markets. It is true that the beginning was small; the young tea gardens comprised but a few acres, and only small and tender leaf was picked ; the total production of cured tea not exceeding 150 pounds."
The article includes an in-depth discussion of climate conditions in tea-growing regions around the world and provides several charts of high and low temperatures in these places as well as rainfall amounts. Shepard notes that the quality of tea grown at Pinehurst in the recent growing season has received favorable reviews. "Thus far," he says, "only Assam hybrid leaf has been picked at Pinehurst; and it is better adapted for the manufacture of black or fermented tea. But this season some Chinese and Japanese plants should be in a condition to furnish leaf for experimentation, and it is not improbable that green and oolong teas similar to the Chinese may be made therefrom. Should this leaf prove adapted to this product, the great host of American green tea drinkers may be supplied absolutely pure and American tea to their liking." Shepard died in 1915, and according to the Charleston Tea Plantation website his plants grew wild for the next 48 years. They were transplanted to Wadmalaw Island in 1963, eventually becoming part of what we now know as the Charleston Tea Plantation.