Did you know there is only one tea plantation in North America? It is located on Wadmalaw Island, SC. It actually originated in Summerville, and was later moved there. The Bigelow Family actually owns the plantation. The rest of the tea plantations in the world are located in South America, Asia, and Africa. Tea bushes need lots of humidity and warm temps to grow, making the Lowcountry of South Carolina perfect!
When we first get there, we always get a free cup of tea from inside the gift shop. Then we head through the free factory tour. While we have been there numerous times, the tour is always extremely informational. We also enjoy watching the machinery at work!!! The tea is sifted, removing various particles, as well as crushing the leaves and then drying them (it is so more complicated then that!!!) The drying time is what creates your different teas, as far as green, oolong, and black. Green tea is not oxidized very long, if at all, before it is dried. Oolong is a little longer for oxidation than green tea, and black tea for the longest.
After the factory tour, we headed outside to wait for the trolley tour. We always enjoy walking around the property, and then on the trolley tour, seeing the tea bushes and greenhouse up close!
In order to harvest the tea, the "big green machine" was invented. It cuts the tops off, with the wheels on either side of the bushes. Only the tops of the tea bushes are used for tea, as the rest of them are too woody! The tea that is cut off is then put into truck beds, which are then driven to the factories.
In the greenhouse, the new tea plants are propagated. Once large enough, they are planted in their own field.
Our family will miss going to the Charleston Tea Plantation each year! I guess I will be ordering my tea offline from their website!!!