On account of ALL MY TEA being in storage while I seek a more permanent living arrangement, I haven’t been able to bring you tea updates each week, which has made me sad. Of all the things Charleston has, a great loose-leaf tea store is not one of them, and thus, I went cold-tur-tea. See what I did there? I’m very funny.
But I’m doing okay because Charleston has a tea culture of its own, and it’s an interesting one: it’s traditionally the only place in America where tea is grown. That’s right: they grow tea on a commercial scale in the Palmetto State and nowhere else in the U.S. of A.*
About every single time I talk to a locavore about tea, one of them asks me where they can get “local tea.” Well, you can’t. Ask pretty much any dedicated homesteader, organic farmer, or tea enthusiast and they’ll tell you a story about how they tried to grow tea this one time and so on and so forth and the story goes on for like, an hour, and finally they’re telling you they’d have been better off blowing their noses with the dollar bills they used to buy the seeds/plants/cuttings. Tea is a persnickety thing; it grows in Asia and that’s about it. Any teas from somewhere else are likely herbal teas and….well, briefly, herbal teas are not tea. They are tasty steeped beverages with health benefits, but they don’t have tea leaves in them and thus are not tea. This is akin to how you bake both potatoes and bread and they are both starches and a source of fiber, but a potato is not bread.
For some reason, Charleston’s subtropical, below-sea-level environment gets along well with tea trees, so they’ve been growing the stuff here for about 250 years. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I tried Charleston Tea Plantation’s Charleston Breakfast Tea, since you can’t very well say, “oh, I usually like American teas so this is probably like ______.”
Good news: this tea is right nice. It is very, very robust and is quite caffeinated. It’s a blended tea, and tastes like it’s perhaps a Ceylon/assam mix. The CTP has been using the same plants since colonial times, which is not impressive by old world standards, but is something at which to marvel in America. The Charleston Breakfast speaks to a distinctly American audience; unlike its more far-flung, sometimes delicate cousins, it’s suited to someone who might describe himself as a “coffee person.” Much like global stereotypes of Americans, the Charleston Breakfast is BOLD. FRIENDLY. DEFINITELY IMBUED WITH A STRONG SENSE OF IDENTITY WITH REGARDS TO ITS PLACE OF ORIGIN.
If that sounds like your deal, you can buy 12 pyramidal sachets for $7.50.
Have you tried this one? Do you want to or did I make it sound like your annoying flag-waving uncle? Tried any cool teas since I’ve been away?
*there are a couple places growing tea on a tea-ny (been saving these for a few weeks) scale in Washington, Alabama, and Hawaii, but they’ve only existed for a few years and no one is able to really scale it up for more than their own use and that of a few other folks.