Charleston Tea Gardens


Fully oxidized tea leaves for a robust cup.

Postby henley » May 5th, '08, 16:04

Let us know if you get to go. We won't be going til this summer but I know it's only open Wed-Sun. Their website didn't say how long the tour lasts but if I remember right, you can tour both the fields & the production line. Have fun!!! :D
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Re: Charleston Tea Gardens

Postby misaacka » May 30th, '11, 07:58

Bump! Since I haven't found any actual accounts of visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation, I'll share my recent experience.

Some friends and I visited a couple of days ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. The island where it's located is relatively undeveloped, and the plantation itself is small and pleasantly rustic, the road canopied by arching live oaks. We took the trolley tour (about 30 minutes), which featured a mix of recorded narration by Bill Hall (the plantation's founder) and ad hoc commentary by the driver. I wouldn't say that it was hugely educational, unless you know nothing about tea, but it was a treat to be driven through the various fields and to see the "green machine," the plantation's one-of-a-kind, built-to-purpose harvester. Yep: no hand-picking goes on here, aside from weed-pulling, but considering that the entire plantation (127 acres) is run by a whopping team of two (yes, two), that's understandable. The factory? It's run by one guy. One. (A few extra folks run the gift shop and tours and brew non-stop gallons of free tea for visitors.) We checked out the factory but didn't follow along with the TV-assisted formal tour.

After the first flush in April, the flushes come every 20 to 22 days in a cascading rotation, never more than what the two guys can harvest in a single day. Entire fields are set aside for experimentation with new varietals, and empty fields await expansion. Maybe some day they'll take the bold step of hiring a third guy to help in the fields.

I bought a tin of the first flush and sampled it yesterday by brewing several grams (I didn't measure, but I'd guess maybe seven or eight) in a small (10-ounce) tetsubin, using boiling water for one minute. I'm probably not a good judge, since I exclusively drink greens, oolongs, and occasionally pu erhs, and I drank this straight, with no milk or sugar or lemon, which I imagine is not how it's usually taken. The flavor was, not surprisingly, heavily roasted, but with a distinctly fresh, vegetal note that I don't recall associating with black teas. The trolley tour driver had told us that, while most of the tea from the plantation is blended and/or flavored, the first flush is never anything but the pure tea, processed in the simplest way ("one-hundred-percent Mother Nature," he said). The tea itself seems to bear this out: it has a charming freshness, purity, and simplicity. I used the second brew to make a glass of iced tea, and, in my opinion, this is where the first flush really shines: it's crisp and refreshing, and the color is simply gorgeous, a glowing, clear red-gold. I've never seen a prettier glass of iced tea.

If you're in the area and have the time, I'd say definitely stop by for a visit. The "Angel Oak," an enormous 1500-year-old live oak, is nearby and also a lovely stop (the gift shop has printed directions). Together, they make for a wonderful, slow-paced low-country morning or afternoon.
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Re: Charleston Tea Gardens

Postby Sparkles » Jun 16th, '11, 16:50

I've been curious about this because I've lived near Charleston for a long time. I've been to the multitudes of other plantations in the area, but for whatever reason not the one with tea. Everyone seemed to know it was there except for me. xP I think a visit is in order this summer.
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