After decades of wanting to have my own tea plant, I now have one.
We were out in the Camellia Forest when I noticed a sign pointing toward “Tea.” I remembered then that tea is a camellia, camellia sinensis in fact.
Years ago I tried to find tea plants for sale. The nurseries that I asked looked at [or talked to] me like I was crazy. Who would want a camellia with small flowers? One that was bushy and leafy instead of large flowered — and, they told me, no one wants to grow their own tea. It’s too cheap to just buy it. Still I wanted my own tea plant.
I tried to find the remains of what in the 1970s was the only tea plantation in North America. The Pinehurst Tea Farm in Summerville, South Carolina outside of Charleston was home to award winning oolongs in the early part of the 20th century. But by the 1970s, the Tea Farm has become a highly desirable development — and still is as these listings show. At the time, I tried to speak with the Summerville Chamber of Commerce folks at the Plantation, but they only wanted to talk real estate and to say that the plantation part had failed several times.
Now with a little searching I find that a new tea plantation is open outside of Charleston. The Charleston Tea Plantation was recently bought by Bigelow Teas which not only has the plantation working but sells their American Classic Tea. On May 12, The Charleston Tea Plantation will be celebrating the First Flush of the new leaves on their bushes and trees.
I’ll miss the flushing this year, but it’s nice to know there is still tea being grown commercially in America.
My little bush is out defying deer now and will be there for a couple of years before I get more than maybe a cup. But I’ve been trying since the 70s, so what’s another year or two?