Saturday, October 8, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea - South Carolina

Some weeks this year, I've found myself worrying I wouldn't be able to find enough tea-related things to say about a state. That certainly wasn't the case with South Carolina, which I am inclined to rate the number one state in the US in its tea importance. Why?

• Pinehurst Tea Gardens in Summerville, South Carolina, is said to be one of the first places tea was grown here in the US.  According to the Charleston Museum, Dr. Charles Shepard founded Pinehurst in 1888, near the site of a tea planting at what is now Middleton Place, and his oolong won first prize at the 1904 World's Fair. When he died in 1915, the tea plantation declined, but cuttings from his plants "were used in South Carolina’s third and fourth attempts to commercially grow tea. Both the American Tea Growing Company (eventual failure) and the Charleston Tea Plantation (located on Wadmalaw Island in Charleston County and currently operated by R.C. Bigelow Tea) propagated plants from Pinehurst."

• Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, is today the home of the Charleston Tea Plantation, whose delicious teas are part of the Bigelow family of teas.  I know many of my tea friends have had the pleasure of visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation, as I have, and I definitely recommend a visit. Go here to learn more.

Click here to watch video on "The Birthplace of Sweet Tea"

• Summerville, South Carolina, is the home of the Sweet Tea Trail—but not without a bit of controversy. There's a little brew-haha that's been simmering up in South Carolina for a while now. I remember when a friend told me a year or so ago that a mutual friend who lives in Summerville claimed that Summerville was "the birthplace of sweet tea." "Huh?" I thought. "Where'd she get that?" Apparently, it all begins with an Azalea magazine article in Spring 2010 that shared the claim that Summerville is the birthplace of sweet tea. Now I loved my visit to Summerville a while back and found the town absolutely charming, but … birthplace of sweet tea? Evidence, please. Later, Charleston City Paper published a piece saying the birthplace-of-sweet-tea claim is bogus. I rather agree with that article's author, who says, "I do not suspect any untoward motives on anyone's part. It's just a case of journalists trying to tell a story in the simplest, most compelling way they can and occasionally getting a few facts wrong. But you can see how our love for a good yarn slowly but surely glosses over any inconvenient details." This article goes on to provide some evidence that "Yankees were drinking sweetened iced tea as far back as the 1860s, two decades before Dr. Shepherd (sic) plucked his first tea leaf in Summerville." If you're at all interested in US tea history (whether or not you're actually interested in sweet tea), I think you'll find these articles most interesting. I'm going to be busy for weeks trying to confirm some of the info in that video and both articles!


  1. I hope to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation one of these days. I expect many Southern cities would like to claim the "birthplace of sweet (iced) tea" title, but who really knows?

  2. PS. "Brew-haha" simmering. That was cute!

  3. I have never considered exactly where southern sweet tea might have originated. But, I know from many travels in South Carolina, plenty is consumed there.

  4. I hope the charleston tea plantation survived the hurricane. I too think sweet tea was probably born elsewhere.

  5. Interesting☺ Have a wonderful Sunday ♥


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