vegetarian recipes

A Visit to the Charleston Tea Plantation + Iced Tea with Honey Lemon Ginger Ice Cubes

Iced Tea with Honey Lemon Ginger Ice Cubes
When we were in Charleston last week it was really hot. I nagged my husband to stop for drinks every hour or so and I soon found a favorite local beverage–American Classic Sweet Tea. Normally I’m not big on sweet tea because it is so sweet, but this was perfectly sweetened. And then we discovered that, hey, this tea is grown right outside of Charleston!

Charleston Tea Plantation
Tea in Charleston? Yes! The Charleston Tea Plantation is located on Wadmalaw Island, a short drive from the city. And guess what else? It’s open to visitors! Since we had some spare time before heading to Savannah, we decided to visit the plantation and find out how tea is made. And boy, was I excited! Probably more excited than any reasonable person would be. I do love me some tea.

There aren’t many places in the United States that are hospitable to growing tea, which is probably why the Charleston Tea Plantation is the only tea plantation in the country. The sandy soil, sub-tropical climate, and rainfall on Wadmalaw Island are perfectly suited to the cultivation of Camellia Sinensis, or the tea plant. (Oh, and did you know that the flavor of tea comes from the soil it’s grown in? Camellia Sinensis grown in China has different nuances of flavor than Camellia Sinensis grown here in the US.)

Charleston Tea Plantation Factory
American Classic Teas are completely natural and the Charleston Tea Plantation uses no herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides in tea production. There’s no need for any of these because not much bothers the tea plant! The plants themselves look like bushes. Only the uppermost leaves are harvested, by a machine that lops off the tops of the bushes. The leaves are brought to the on-site factory–all of the American Classic Teas are made right on the Plantation. Green, black, and oolong tea are all made from the same plant (the only difference is how they’re processed), so the Plantation produces both green and black teas in various flavors. I had always thought that black and green tea was flavored with little bits of fruits and herbs, but that’s not the case! Tea leaves and natural essential oils are combined in a tumbler for several hours to infuse the leaves with flavor.

Charleston Tea Plantation Collage
After the tour of the Plantation, we left with several boxes and bottles of tea. And being that it’s still a zillion degrees out, hot tea was out of the question, so when we got home, I brewed a big pitcher of iced black tea that we bought on our visit. As you know, I have an aversion to plain ice cubes, so I made some Honey Lemon Ginger Ice Cubes with Savannah Honey from the Savannah Bee Company. Between the Savannah Honey and the Charleston Tea, it was like being on vacation again. (And yes, I am totally ready to go on vacation again.)
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32 Comments

  • Reply
    The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh
    July 17, 2012 at 7:40 am

    That sounds like a fun little side trip. Totally something I would’ve done on vacay as well!

    Now I’m thirsty!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      Well, when you go to Savannah, you can swing on by Charleston and go to the tea plantation!

  • Reply
    alexandra @ sweet betweens [blog]
    July 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I’ve been making coffee ice cubes for my daily iced coffee these days, but never thought to make iced tea cubes! The Husband and I are big [hot] tea fans in cooler weather – but this has inspired me to make some iced tea w/these tasty tea cubes! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      Even when it’s hot out, I have to start everyday with a cup of tea. But when midday rolls around, I’m all about iced tea. 🙂 It’s so good when you brew it yourself!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    July 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    These ice cubes sound delicious! My boyfriend and I are always adding lemon and ginger to our seltzer water – I should try making ice cubes!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      I love the lemon/ginger combo. I started drinking it with tea and water when I had a bad sinus infection, but now I have it all the time!

  • Reply
    Pam
    July 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    oh boy, that looks so crisp and refreshing.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      It is! So good on a hot day.

  • Reply
    Natalie
    July 17, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    I was hoping to see more flavoured ice cube recipes from you after those vanilla ones .. These look so good too, I would have loved a glass of that iced tea today with temperatures over 100F here!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 19, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Maybe I should start an ice cube only blog. 🙂 I have so many ideas, but I don’t want people to be like, “Oh, she’s doing ANOTHER ice cube recipe.” Which would probably happen if I started posting all of them.

  • Reply
    Laura (Got Chocolate)
    July 18, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Wow, this was a read learning experience. I had no idea Charleston was the only tea plantation in the U.S.! I have to admit being here in Washington state, we don’t drink sweet tea. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say the only reason I’ve heard of it was from other bloggers, like Trisha at MomDot, and then you.

    Your ice cubes are a GREAT idea! I need to make me some chocolate ones! 😀

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      Yeah, I’m originally from Illinois and sweet tea definitely isn’t a thing there. But they offer it everywhere here! I only like a touch of sweetness in my tea, so sometimes it’s a little too much for me.

  • Reply
    Emily
    July 18, 2012 at 7:54 am

    A tea plantation sounds like a fun excursion. Your ice cubes sound great, too. I may try making them one day – I don’t care for ice in most of my drinks, but have to have it in Iced Tea.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      It was a lot of fun–if you ever get around to visiting Charleston, you’ll have to go there! 🙂

  • Reply
    nicole @nicky_olea
    July 18, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve always want to go to Charleston -now that I know they’ve got sweet tea there -even more so! LOL! I mean, I knew they at sweet tea, but not the growing bit. Makes sense though when you think about it. I make a ginger tea-never thought about making ice cubes too cute! Yummmy! Pinned you’re recipe! thanks!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 19, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks for the pin! Charleston is an awesome place to visit. It’s driving distance from Savannah too, so it’s easy to go to both cities in one trip. 🙂

  • Reply
    Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell
    July 18, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Do you ever do half sweet-half unsweetened to make it more palatable? I love the touch of ginger in your ice cubes. mmmmmm

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      I never thought of asking for half sweet tea, half unsweetened! Well, I’ll just have to do that next time…

  • Reply
    Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook
    July 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    That sounds like a lovely place to visit. The iced tea looks fantastic, perfect for this hot sticky heat wave.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Yes, when it’s hot like this, all I want to drink is iced tea! I’ve been waiting & waiting for it to cool down…

  • Reply
    Stephanie @ henry happened
    July 19, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    I have a total weakness for sweet beverages (like McD’s sweet tea) that I’m trying to overcome. Fancy ice cubes just might help! 🙂

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      I used to only be able to drink iced tea if it had several packets of sugar in it, but after I cut out down on sweet drinks a few years ago, I found that I kind of lost my taste for them.

  • Reply
    Meg
    July 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Awesome post! We love touring places like this when we take vacations.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 21, 2012 at 11:49 am

      Yeah, we’ve done wineries before, but never something like this!

  • Reply
    Shirley
    July 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Honey lemon ginger ice cubes sound so good! The tea plantation looks really cool. I never thought about whether tea was grown in the US, but I guess it makes sense it usually isn’t. I know my mom has visited tea farms in Malaysia when she flies back to visit family.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 21, 2012 at 11:47 am

      Most tea sold in the US comes from Argentina, believe it or not! I thought for sure it would have been China or India.

  • Reply
    Brenda Williams
    July 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    I love sweet tea, but have gotten use to unsweeted tea. Love the ice cube flavoring idea.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 21, 2012 at 11:34 am

      I always prefer my tea unsweetened, but sometimes a little bit of sugar or honey is nice. It’s hard to find sweet tea that’s not overly sweet!

  • Reply
    Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom
    July 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    What a fun tour! Those ice cubes are genius!

  • Reply
    Sheila
    July 26, 2012 at 10:07 am

    I love ice tea, and that looks and sounds good. Will have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Amber @ Slim Pickin's Kitchen
    November 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I saw your post on today’s Dailybuzz Food and was excited to see a write up of my beloved hometown! As a Charlestonian, sweet tea practically flows through my veins, and I take pride in the fact that the only tea plantation in the US is just a hop, skip, and from where I grew up. I’m glad to see others love it as well. When you come back be sure to check out the Firefly distillery where the famous Sweet Tea vodka is made! It is incredible, but dangerous! The distillery isn’t too far from the tea plantation and they also have a winery too. I’m not going to lie, the wine is horrible but checking out the muscadine grape vines and sampling those alone are worth the trip!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      November 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      We wanted to go to the distillery! We didn’t find out about it until we were on our way out of town. Definitely next time, though. And thanks for the warning about the wine. 😉

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