By LARRY VAUGHT
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Sometimes you have to be willing to take a chance to find out how much you really do not know.
That’s what happened to me when my wife and I spent time at the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island just a short drive from historic Charleston. Our only mistake was getting there late afternoon and not having more time to browse the many products available and talk to the helpful staff even more about what they do.
This is the only tea plantation in North American (others are in Asia, Africa and South America) and gave me a chance to see tea bushes. Actually, there were acres and acres of tea bushes.
It also has no admission charge. Again, no admission charge. The only charge is for the trolley ride — and wouldn’t you know the one we took actually came from Lexington and was named Man O War — that lets you go in the greenhouse. There is a free tour of the tea factory where you see how tea is made.
Our trolley driver was full of interesting tidbits like these:
— Tea bushes can grow as high as 30 feet if not pruned.
— Tea plants can live 100 years or more.
— Each tea plant is put out by hand and then it takes four years for it to mature enough to be harvested.
— Each bush is pruned annually to keep it from getting too big and to make sure there are fresh leave to pick.
— It takes 32 tea leaves to make one tea bag.
— Loose tea is packaged at the plantation. Tea is shipped to Connecticut to be placed in bags and then sent back to Charleston Tea Plantation.
Then there is the gift shop where you can sample various teas (I tried them all and the peach sweet tea was incredible). We bought a variety of tea to bring home — and hope to find a way we can continue to buy more.
Our timing was off by two days to see the tea being harvested but our timing was perfect for First Flush team. First Flush refers to the new growth of tea plants that “flush out” when they produce new leaves to start the season. The First Flush is the freshest tea — it is immediately packaged for sale and is not blended with other harvests.
Trust me, I never expected to enjoy the Charleston Tea Plantation nearly as much as I did. The staff was unbelievably friendly and helpful. The tour was superb and the tea was great.
If you get a chance to go, do it. It’s well worth the short drive from Charleston.
For more information, go to http://www.charlestonteaplantation.com/ or call 1-843-559-0383.