6th
Mar
2014

Posted in Kafevend Blog

Despite the growing popularity of tea in the United States, very little tea production occurs in the country. Production is smaller still if you look solely on the mainland and exclude the tea grown in the tropical island state of Hawaii. The largest commercial tea plantation in America is the Charleston tea plantation, found in South Carolina, on Wadwalaw Island in Charleston County. Wadwalaw Island is almost unspoilt by development, and is connected to the mainland by just one bridge at the north east end of the island.

Since 1744, there have been several attempts to establish tea growing on a commercial scale in the United States. Many attempts took place in South Carolina, with Junius Smith first finding success in Greenville in 1848. A government backed farm known as the Pinehurst plantation was also successful a few decades later, but following the death of its leader, Dr Charles Shepard, in 1915 it was abandoned.

The Charleston tea plantation was established in 1963 on the site of an old potato farm by the Lipton Tea Company, who transported the tea plants still growing on the old Pinehurst site. Initially it was an experimental farm, but after its sale to Mack Fleming and Bill Hall in 1987, it was transformed into a commercial tea garden. It changed hands again in 2003 when it was sold by auction to the Bigelow Tea Company, who spent three years renovating the site. The plantation now offers tours of the fields and factory to the public alongside the production of black and green tea.

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