South Carolina State Hospitality Beverage


South Carolina State Hospitality Beverage: Tea

(Camellia sinensis)

Adopted on April 10, 1995.

South Carolina grown tea, (Camellia sinensis,) was designated the official Hospitality Beverage of the State by Act No. 31, 1995, adopted on April 10, 1995 when Governor David Beasley signed House Bill No. 3487

World's most popular beverage excepting water. South Carolina is the first place in the United States where tea was grown (1799) and is the only State to ever have produced tea commercially.

South Carolina State Hospitality Beverage: Tea

South Carolina State Hospitality Beverage: Tea

South Carolina is the first place in the United States where tea was grown having been planted in the Low country outside of Charleston in 1799 at what is now Middleton Place. Now the direct descendants of those very plants have been restored to their former grandeur at the Charleston Tea Plantation, a lush, subtropical tea farm, nestled on a serene sea island near the historic City of Charleston.

Just 15 miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island, Charleston Tea Plantation is where the only tea is grown in America. This traditional black tea called American Classic, is the Official Hospitality Beverage of the State of South Carolina and the official tea served at the Whitehouse since 1987. Selected as the tea used for official and ceremonial events of the presidency, American Classic is also enjoyed by tea lovers in 32 states.

The Charleston Tea Plantation, revived in 1987, is responsible for every stage of tea production from the nurturing of the tea bushes to the packaging of the million bags produced by the plantation each year. The tea bushes of the plantation are directly descended from the original plants brought to the colonies from India, China, and Ceylon more than 100 years ago. Co-owners Mack Fleming, the country's only horticulturist specializing in tea, and Englishman William Barclay Hall, one of only eight tea tasters in the US, pride themselves on the freshness of their tea, which is the freshest available on American shelves.

Hall is a third-generation tea taster. His expertise comes by way of a rigorous apprenticeship with Brooke Bond Ltd., the venerable English tea purveyors. Both men have traveled the world learning about tea "from the bush to the cup." In fact, the cover of their brochure says it all - "The Charleston Tea Plantation is proud to play a part in the continuation of Charleston's rich heritage with the production of its American Classic Teas - the only teas grown in America."

Their company, Charleston Tea Plantation, has over 127 acres planted to tea. The plants are home to descendants of bushes brought to the United States over 100 years ago. The tea is harvested every 15-18 days from the first flush (first tea of the year) in May through the month of October. No insecticides or fungicides are used, thus producing a cleaner, purer tea than the imports.

Tea is grown on green bushes that are about three and a half feet tall and clipped perfectly flat on top like rows of neat English hedges. The whole operation is lovely to see including the Spanish moss-laden century-old live oak trees.

American Classic Tea is harvested by a one-of-a-kind large, green harvesting machine that was designed by Mr. Fleming and performs equally as well as hand labor. Having grown up on a South Carolina cotton and tobacco farm, Fleming designed the diesel, four-wheel drive machine that is a cross between a cotton picker and a tobacco harvester.

Only the new leaves are cut from the top of the bushes. The leaves are then brought into the factory for withering, curing, manufacturing preparation and packaging. Hence, the freshness of the tea cannot be equaled.

Visiting hours are 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday. There is no charge and no reservations are necessary. Visitors will see the only tea plants in America and listen to the staff tell about the exciting world of tea production. After a stroll down the oak-lined drive, guests may enjoy a complimentary glass of American Classic Tea in the gazebo. The complete line of teas and related items are sold at the conclusion of the tour.

South Carolina Act



Whereas, a member of the Camellia family, Camellia sinensis, most commonly known as tea, is the world's most popular beverage excepting water; and

Whereas, South Carolina is the first place in the United States where tea was grown having been planted in the South Carolina Lowcountry outside of Charleston in 1799 at what is now Middleton Place; and

Whereas, South Carolina contains a unique combination of factors that makes tea production possible; and

Whereas, quality tea was produced successfully by Dr. Charles Shepard at Pinehurst Tea Plantation near Summerville circa 1888 and continued for over twenty-five years; and

Whereas, subsequent to its introduction in America, commercial tea production also was attempted in South Carolina in Greenville, in Georgetown, and in Ravenel; and

Whereas, most recently tea is being produced in the tradition of Dr. Shepard on Wadmalaw Island from plants descended from the tea planted near Summerville over one hundred years ago; and

Whereas, with improved plant horticulture and the invention of unique machinery to harvest the delicate leaves, Mack Fleming and William B. Hall of American Classic Tea are growing, harvesting, drying, grading, and packaging this beverage again on Wadmalaw Island; and

Whereas, it is recognized that tea is unique to South Carolina in that South Carolina is the only state to have ever produced tea commercially, and with the revitalizing of an industry that flourished at the turn of the century, it is appropriate that this beverage be so recognized as the official hospitality beverage of the State. Now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

Tea designated state hospitality beverage

SECTION 1. The 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 1-1-692. South Carolina grown tea is designated as the official hospitality beverage of the State."

Time effective

SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.

Approved the 10th day of April, 1995.

South Carolina Law

The law designating South Carolina grown tea as the official South Carolina state beverage is found in the South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 1, Chapter 1, Article 9, Section 1-1-692.

Title 1 - Administration of the Government
SECTION 1-1-692

SECTION 1-1-692. Official State beverage
South Carolina grown tea is designated as the official hospitality beverage of the State.

State Foods
State Foods Symbols

List Official US State Foods