Tea is a classic symbol of the south, yet I’ve never been one to really drink it. In any form. Herbal, green, iced, mixed with lemonade, or – dare I even whisper it – sweet. Shocking, I know! It’s like can I really even call myself a southerner if I don’t enjoy sweet tea? Well, I do still label myself as such, but I definitely keep my distaste for the beverage under wraps unless I want people staring at me all bug-eyed and mouth gaping and yelling, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T LIKE TEA?”
I am an anomaly, to say the least. I know this. Have known it for awhile actually. You find out those kinds of things pretty quickly growing up in the south. For example, whenever my mom would make a big batch of sweet tea, within a day it seemed, my brothers and dad would gulp it down like they’d been in the desert for days. There were those times at my grandparents house as well, when we’d all pile in their kitchen after church on Sundays for supper. My entire family, myself excluded, would wash down the meal with a glass (or two) of my grandma’s famous mint tea – yuck – or a glass (or two) of her regular ole’ sweet tea.
I just wasn’t ever crazy about it, and I never got why people drank it by the gallons or absolutely had to swing by McDonald’s in the morning to get a large one for just a dollar to start their day. I still don’t understand it really. In my mind, tea is just murky, muddled water with a weird aftertaste. So, why not just drink water? Or something with a stronger flavor?
I should say I don’t hate all tea… now. Actually, I’ve grown to appreciate hot peach tea in the winter when the weather sucks, temperatures are freezing and I just need to be thawed from the inside out. I’ve found it also really helps with a sore throat. Just mix in a little bit of honey, and it’s heaven sliding down your throat, soothing and coating all the rough, scratchy areas.
By no means though is it my first drink of choice, or second, or even third for that matter. That would be water, wine and beer, respectively. Yet, despite the fact there’s no love lost between me and tea, one of the places I wanted to visit most during my trip to Charleston, and ended up LOVING the most, was a nearby tea plantation. Coming from a non-tea drinker, I’d say that’s pretty impressive.
Charleston Tea Plantation
The plantation is about 30 minutes south of Downtown Charleston, on Wadmalaw Island. It is the only tea plantation in North America, which is pretty freaking awesome. Tea plants love it there, and they thrive in the subtropical conditions. Aka, unlike us, they love the humidity and the rain. The sandy soil, which drains easily, helps too.
I won’t go over everything I learned while I was there for a couple reasons. First off, an abundant amount of info was bestowed upon me. Secondly, I don’t want you to think I’m a bigger nerd than I already (admittedly) am. Lastly, it would spoil your time there if I told you everything in advance! I will say I found out about the plantation’s history, the different types of tea plants, how it grows and is harvested and more. It was super interesting, and I’m being dead serious when I say that. Did I mention you also get to drink FREE tea while you’re there? I had two cups myself. Peach, of course!
So, next time you’re in the area, you NEED to include it on your itinerary.
I didn’t spend all my time exploring the fields there and chugging tea, though. And nooooo, before you even say anything, I didn’t guzzle beer the whole trip either! I branched out and investigated some other areas, restaurants and galleries. Here’s a couple of places I checked out that I would highly recommend!
Deep Water Vineyard and Firefly Distillery
The vineyard and distillery is a 2-in-1 deal that is just 15 minutes down the road from the tea plantation! Both are located on the same property, right beside each other, at the end of a beautiful winding road that takes you through rows and rows of grapes. You can sample wines on one side and taste the ever-popular Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka on the other. In the middle, you can sit back, relax and enjoy some live music! While they have some seating outside, you might want to bring your own chairs or blankets to spread out past the buildings, under some shade. You can also take a tour of the vineyard while you’re there!
Angel Oak Tree
Located literally right off the beaten path to and from the places mentioned above, this tree is incredibly old and gigantic. Sure, it might not seem that interesting at first. After all, it’s just an old tree. Right? NOT! It’s history and size is overwhelming, honestly. I mean, the gnarled roots and limbs climb and dig and twist and turn, and it’s spectacular to see. Also, it’s FREE.
I don’t think of myself as much of a snob, unless you’re talking about the fans of Slightly North of Broad. See what they did there? Although we sat outside at first, to watch everyone mosey by while we ate delectable cornbread, and got rained by a passing afternoon shower, that didn’t deter the experience of eating at such a fancy establishment. I shouldn’t even say fancy. I mean, it is, but it’s not. Actually, it’s not really snobbish either, despite the name. It’s eclectic. It’s laid back. It’s fine dining. The atmosphere is just as interesting (in a good way) as the menu. They serve up mouth-watering southern and lowcountry cuisine with a modern twist.
The staff was so friendly and accommodating, and the food? Oh. My. Lanta. So. AMAZING! I got the Southern Medley, and that might honestly be the first time I have ever cleaned my plate of so many vegetables, and here I profess to being vegetarian 75 percent of the time.
The dish consisted of a delicious marinated chicken breast on top of grilled eggplant, with a grilled zucchini, grilled tomato and fried goat cheese balls. The way everything was seasoned and cooked was decadent. I washed it down with the Strawberry Basil Sangria! Also very tasty.
Of course these are just 3 more places out of a gazillion! I’ll definitely be back for a weekend trip in the near future. There’s too much to see and do in just a couple of days. Might take me years to experience everything!
What are some of your favorite places to go? What would you recommend next?