It's unique, it's classic, and it's all American. In the heart of the Lowcountry nestled in the midst of the Lowcountry's protected and pristine Wadmalaw Island is the home of the only commercially producing tea farm in America - The Charleston Tea Plantation. The reason for this phenomenon? In order to stay healthy and to produce the ideal tea, tea plants require a sub-tropic climate, sandy soil, and good drainage. Those conditions can only be found in just so many places throughout the U.S. as well as the world. The Charleston and Lowcountry area of South Carolina just happens to be one of those places.
At the Welcome Center / Gift Shop is where visitors are welcomed to the Charleston Tea Plantation, and where they can obtain information and tour schedules and tickets for both the "Trolley" and "Tea Factory" tours. This is also where visitors can enjoy leisurely shopping and browsing through the Charleston Tea Plantation Gift Shop. With an opportunity to sample a wide variety of teas, both hot and cold, the Gift shop provides the perfect quintessential tea sampling, drinking, and shopping experience. Also inside the Welcome Center / gift shop is the entrance to the "Tea Factory Tour".
For those that have an affinity for plants, botany, and general gardening, this tour is both intriguing and educational. The tour took us through the tea fields, passed the pavilion (a place for special occasions) and the wedding oak, with a stop at the greenhouse to observe the seedlings, some of which were in bloom. The trolley tour is a great time to sit back and relax as the tour guide explains the multi-faceted operations and history of the Charleston Tea Plantation, it's a wonderful opportunity to learn about, appreciate, and bask in the serene beauty of the unspoiled Wadmalaw Island.
In 1888 botanist Dr. Charles Shepard procured tea plants from China, Japan, India, and Ceylon. Dr. Shepard launched the Pine Hurst Tea Plantation in 1892 on 100 acres where currently sits two residential areas of Summerville, "Miler Country Club" and "Tea Farm". It was the first and only commercial tea farm in the United States. His strong belief in the health properties of tea coincided quite well with the declaration made by the International Congress of Physicians in Paris, France declaring Summerville, SC as one of the two healthiest places in the world. This event marked the beginning of Summerville's Golden Age; a time when prominent visitors from all over the world traveled to Summerville for health reasons as well as an opportunity to bask in the town's serenity, charm, and beauty. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the renowned Pine Forest Inn of Summerville as well as the Pine Hurst Tea Farm to observe and learn more about Dr. Shepard's experiments with tea. After Dr. Shepard's death in 1915, very little was done to maintain and continue his work. As a result for the next 48 years, the tea plants grew wild.
In 1963, the Lipton Tea corporation purchased The Pine Hurst Tea Plantation and began moving the plants to property it had purchased on Wadmalaw Island. After 24 years of conducting experiments and research on their experimental tea farm, the Lipton Tea Corporation concluded that it was more economically profitable for them to continue the practice of importing tea for resale as opposed to growing their own here in the USA. Their conclusion opened the door for a third generation tea taster and entrepreneur, William Barclay Hall, to purchase the Wadmalaw Island property along with the tea plants, many of which were either the original plants of Pine Hurst or descendants of those plants. This was the start of "The Charleston Tea Plantation". After 40 years of successfully operating the only commercially producing tea farm in America and establishing the "American Classic Tea" brand, Mr. Hall made a decision that would help the Charleston Tea Plantation evolve to the next level and ensure its preservation for many generations to come. In 2003, he formed a partnership with the Bigelow family of Bigelow Tea. With over 65 years of successful experience with specialty teas, as well as sales and marketing of their teas worldwide, The Bigelow Tea Company has been a primary contributor toward establishing The Charleston Tea Plantation as a True American Icon, as well as learning center and special events venue.
The Charleston and Lowcountry Area of South Carolina has no shortage of awesome places to visit and tour: Prehistoric Native American shell rings; old American Revolutionary — WWII Forts; several old lighthouses; islands, beaches, and marshes; live theater; world renowned restaurants; Antebellum Plantations; parks and gardens; all kinds of live entertainment at a wide variety of venues; and a great deal more. Consequently, the task of selecting any one thing as "top of the list" is nearly impossible. However, when something is the only one of its kind in the country, descending from the very first of its kind. Well... then the task isn't so hard after all. The Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island definitely tops the list of Charleston and Lowcountry places to visit and tour. There is no other place like it.