I recently visited Charleston, South Carolina for the first time with my daughter. We wanted to have a girls weekend getaway and enjoy the charm and hospitality of the south. We usually visit Savannah, Georgia but thought we would change it up this time and give Charleston a try. We were not disappointed.
What drew my attention to Charleston was the fact that there is a tea plantation. It is the only tea plantation in the United States. There are small tea growers in a handful of states but they have not yet reached the point of selling product to the general public on a regular basis. The Charleston Tea Plantation is a fully viable tea production company selling it's teas to the public and hosting tours of their tea gardens and factory. They have nine special flavors of tea, including their original American Classic Tea. My favorites are their Plantation Peach Tea and their Rockville Raspberry Tea. This is the only brand of tea in the world that is made exclusively with 100% tea grown in America. The Charleston Tea Plantation has become an American icon.
The tour of the plantation was very informative. We took a trolley around the tea gardens and learned about the history of the company and how the plants are cultivated. Here are some of the seedling plants in the greenhouse.
I was in shock at how hardy the tea plants were. When we got off the trolley ride, I tried breaking off the tip of the branch. I was unable to so I pulled off a few leaves. Those were also a little hard to pull off. I can't imagine how much work it is to harvest the crop by hand like they do in most tea producing countries. The Charleston Plantation has a special machine called "The Green Giant" designed by their company to cut the tea plants for harvesting. It is the only machine of it's kind in the world.
Most establishments in Charleston serve the Charleston brand of teas to the public. I think that is fabulous. One such place is Twenty Six Divine. It is a small little tea room at 682 King Street. Just follow the driveway to the back of the building and you will find the bright orange door. When you enter, a delicious tea experience awaits you.
Enan and Jenn Parezo are the owners and chefs of Twenty Six Divine. They are a dynamic duo or should I say a "Divine Duo". Enan specializes in private dinners and events while Jenn focuses on afternoon tea.
We asked for a vegetarian afternoon tea and they obliged us happily. The finger sandwiches were so good, I'd say as good as the high end tea rooms in London. We received a basket of scones and biscotti and the desserts were wonderful. What I loved about the desserts were they weren't pretentious. They weren't about being froufrou but all about being wholesome delicious. I especially liked the champagne cake pops. They had a wonderful effervescence of champagne . Everything is homemade and fresh. If you have a chance to visit Twenty Six Divine, go, you will love it.
Charleston is a bustling town with plenty of things to do. Shopping, history, ghost tours and restaurants. If you like seafood, there is an abundance of it on the menus. I was so excited that the restaurant we went to had Sweet Tea Glazed Salmon. "Sweet Tea", how wonderful is that. It was very tasty with the sweet glaze pairing with the salty fish. I think I will have to try it at home. God knows I have enough tea to use!
Southern tea is sweet in Charleston. I love staying at Bed and Breakfasts when I travel down south. Most of the B&B's will give you tea time in the afternoon. Southern tea time isn't like English tea time. They serve sweets with sweet tea and let me tell you, the sweet tea is SWEET. It is served cold but they do put out unsweetened iced tea and sometimes lemonade. If the tea is too sweet for you, you have the other options. It is so lovely to sit on the porch sipping a nice cold beverage and eating sweets. I could get used to it. Here is my daughter enjoying the second floor veranda at our B&B, The John Rutledge House Inn.
If you are planning a trip down south, you will enjoy the southern hospitality. I don't usually eat a formal breakfast but I love waking up and having eggs and grits. Southern grits are delicious. I never eat grits and it's such a treat especially when they are made the correct way. There is a lot of American history in the south so you will find lots of museums and tours to take up your time. Of course, you can't miss the ghost tours, they are so much fun too. If you elect to engage in tea time at your bed and breakfast, remember, don't add sugar to your tea, they have already done it for you.
Link for afternoon tea:
Twenty Six Divine is located at 682 King St, Charleston SC