Friday, August 18, 2017

Who was growing tea in 1813? We were!

Granted, I am a tea nerd, but I was quite excited to come across a publication with some tea history I'd not read before! This is the 1879 Special Report titled "Tea-culture As A Probable American Industry" by William Saunders, Superintendent of Gardens and Grounds, Department of Agriculture. (I found this, of course, on the Library of Congress website, and you can access it here.)

Here's some intriguing info I found on page 5:

"With regard to the introduction of the tea-plant into the United States, the earliest notice which has come under my observation is contained in the following extract taken from the Southern Agriculturist, published in 1828:

I find that the tea-tree grows perfectly well in the open air near Charleston, where it has been raised for the last fifteen years at M. Noisette's nursery. Tea, as exported from China, would cost too much in the preparation, for each leaf goes through a particular process there. But, as this is probably done with a view of economizing room and preserving its freshness in the long sea voyage to which it is exposed, we might, in raising it as a crop, use it and export it, at least northwardly, dried in the same manner as senna or hops."

So, if my calculations are correct, if in 1828 tea had been growing for 15 years in M. Noisette's nursery, that means tea was growing near Charleston in 1813, much earlier than I'd believed!

The piece goes on to mention efforts by a Junius Smith to grow tea in Greenville, S.C. "about 1848." And 1848 is also the earliest date I have found for Dr. Charles Shepard's tea-growing experiment at Pinehurst Tea Plantation in South Carolina, which provided some of the plants that later became part of the Charleston Tea Plantation.

Yet another fun discovery in the never-ending history of tea!


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