Make a stop at the Charleston Tea Plantation, America’s only tea garden. The plantation is home to 127 acres of Camellia Sinensis tea plants, which first arrived in the United States from China in the 1700s. For the next 150 years, several people tried to propagate and produce the tea but without luck. That’s until 1888 when Dr. Charles Shepard founded the Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville. Shepard successfully grew tea in Summerville until he died in 1915. For almost 50 years after his death, the tea plants grew wild at Pinehurst.
Then in 1963, the plants were transported from Pinehurst in Summerville to a farm on Wadmalaw Island. That means the plants you see growing at Charleston Tea Plantation today are direct descendents of Shepard’s 1888 crop.
The climate on Wadmalaw – sandy soil, sub-tropical climate and average rainfall of 52 inches a year – is ideal for growing tea. The Camellia Sinensis tea plants are used to create both black and green teas under the label American Classic Tea.
Visitors can tour the plantation via bus, learning about the tea growing and harvesting process. The plantation is also home to a gift shop where visitors can sample teas and buy loose tea, bagged tea and tea accessories and souvenirs. While in the gift shop, take advantage of a free video-guided tour of the factory to see how the tea leaves are processed and turned into a glass of refreshing iced tea.
Also take an exclusive tour with Bill Hall, world-renowned tea taster and tea maker who partnered with the Bigelow Family back in 2003. Hall oversees the daily operations at the Charleston Tea Plantation and the production and development of American Classic Tea.
Learn more about visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation. And if you’re in town on Saturday, May 24, visit the plantation for the eighth annual First Flush FesTEAval, celebrating the new growth for the season or the “first flush.” The event features The Avett Brothers and a host of other musical acts along with a children’s area and food trucks.