I’ve always wanted to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation, America’s only tea garden and this Spring I finally made it! Nestled in the picturesque Wadmalaw Island, the plantation is a short drive from both downtown Charleston and Folly Beach.
Things to know before you go
You can tour the indoor tea factory for free or take the $10 (free for kids under 6) trolley tour around the farm.
The plantation is open daily 10AM to 4PM (noon on Sundays), except on major holidays.
Although the Charleston Tea Plantation started in 1987, its roots go way back.
In the 1700’s the Camellia Sinensis tea plant first arrived in the United States from China in an attempt to produce the exquisitely aromatic tea.
It only took about 150 years…In 1888, Dr. Charles Shepard managed to produce the first American grown tea on his Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville, SC.
In 1963, Shepard’s tea plants were transplanted from Pinehurst to a 127 acres potato farm located on Wadmalaw Island.
This farm eventually became known as the Charleston Tea Plantation.
Every Camellia Sinensis plant growing on the grounds today is direct descendant of Dr. Shepard’s 1888 crop, making the Charleston Tea Plantation a living part of American history!
The trolley tour lasts about 20 minutes. You listen to a recorded audio that goes over the most interesting aspects of growing tea.
The trolley makes frequent stops so you can take pictures, and have plenty of time to marvel at the charming garden, serene irrigation ponds, and blooming rows after rows of tea plants.
Charleston Tea Plantation facts, trivia and tips
• This is probably one of the most eco-friendly plant farms in the world. They use no herbicides, pesticides or insecticides and consequently there is minimum soil erosion.
• The plantation is not only organic but very high tech. They have designed their own fully sustainable irrigation system and the Green Giant tea harvesting machine…truly unique in the world!
• Did you know that green, black and Oolong tea all come from the same plant? The difference is in processing: green tea leaves, once harvested go straight to drying, and within minutes, are sorted, then put into bags or let loose.
• Tea plants, once mature are very sturdy and resilient and can live for hundreds of years!
• A cup American Classic Tea contains half the amount of caffeine than the average cup of coffee. To reduce the caffeine in hot tea try the following: Pour boiling water over your tea and let it sit for 60 seconds. Pour OUT that first cup (heat releases caffeine), then again pour boiling water over the tea and enjoy!
• To get the best flavor and lower caffeine iced tea, pour cold water over your tea bags (DO NOT use boiling water!) and let it sit overnight at room temperature. In the morning, remove your tea bags, add a sweetener if desired and serve over ice.
The self guided factory tour is free and takes about 15 minutes. You watch video on a TV screen about each major step in the tea producing process: harvesting, withering, maceration, filtration, oxidation, drying and packaging.
Note the tour may be boring for young children (mine ran up and down the corridor)…
It gets more exciting during the harvesting season, May through October, when visitors can see all the big machines in action!
Once done with the tour, enjoy all you can drink fresh-made tea or shop for one of kind gourmet items at the Shoppe. Make sure to get the American Classic Tea sampler box, featuring six delicious varieties of loose leaf tea in the staple pyramid bags.
Health benefits of green and black tea
• Great source of antioxidants
• Promote cardiovascular health, higher bone density
• Help reduce body fat
• Have no carbohydrates or calories
Best time to visit the plantation is during annual First Flush Festival, which this year is on May 16, from 10AM to 6PM. The first flush is when the most fresh, flavorful and aromatic tea is produced. There will be great music bands, art, local cuisine, and fun kids games.
Festival tickets are $15 until May 1, $20 until May 16, and $25 at the door on the event day. Kids 6 and under get in FREE.
Family fun attractions in the area
• The 1,500 years old, gigantic Angel Oak Tree on John’s Island
• The romantic Morris Island Lighthouse, one of the most revered historic landmarks on the Charleston Harbor
• Folly Beach, featuring one of the best surfing and fishing spots on the Atlantic Coast.
Filed under: Charleston, Edisto Island, Edisto Island State Park, Folly Beach, Free Things to Do, James Island, Outdoor Activities, Parks and Gardens | Tagged: American Classic tea garden pictures, Charleston activities under $10, Charleston free things to do with kids, Charleston most exotic food festivals, Charleston tea plantation tour, Charleston unique plantation tours, Edisto Island family fun, family fun activities near Folly Beach, How Americas best tea is made, tasty entertainment John Wadmalaw Island, Trolley garden tour photos, US most eco friendly plant farms, Wadmalaw Island family attractions | 1 Comment »