To people in the south, there are two types of teas – sweet and un-sweet. To many other people around the world, sweet tea may not even be in their vocabulary. Sweet tea is a signature drink of the south and can be found in kitchens, restaurants and cafés all over the region. It has been enjoyed by southerners from as early as the mid-1800s.
Why did this refreshing beverage become so popular? Could it have been the heat in the south? Probably. Let’s face it, when there was no air conditioning, the only way to cool off was with an iced cold beverage and sweet iced tea became the drink of choice. What was it about the sweetness that took off? Well, we Southerners are known for our sweet tooth. It is said that desserts are sweeter in the south, and it is known that both Coca-Cola and Pepsi were invented here.
The Charleston area is also the home of the Charleston Tea Plantation, which just so happens to be the only commercially operated tea plantation in all of North America. The Charleston Tea Plantation is the home of American Classic Tea, which means it is 100% American. You can find American Classic Tea in many grocery stores, cafés and specialty shops in 19 states! The Charleston Tea Plantation is quite an interesting place to visit. It is a working plantation, meaning that all the tea is picked and processed there. You can go on a trolley tour of the grounds and tour the factory. Who knew that making tea could be so interesting? Not to mention, you can taste the tea while you are there, so make sure you partake in some before you leave for the day!
As popular as tea is, sweet tea, however, is not for everyone. If you are prone to kidney stones, doctors say you should limit how much you drink because of the high oxalate levels in the drink. But, one good ole’ glass of sweet tea here and there never killed anyone, so don’t go quitting the drink all together. As they say, everything in moderation, right?
Summerville, which is just a short 20 minute drive from Charleston, holds a Sweet Tea Trail of Antiques on the second Sunday of every month from 1pm to 4pm. Specialty shops open their doors and serve sweet tea to all the guests as they stroll. You can also go to the annual First Flush FestEAval held in May at the Charleston Tea Plantation. The First Flush FestEAval is a celebration of the new leaves that produce in the spring after a long winter of rest.
Sweet tea in the Charleston area is more than just a beverage. It is a way of life. Loving sweet tea means that you love the south and that you love your Southern roots. After all, it’s the little things that make life happy, and a tall glass of sweet tea to a southerner brings the ultimate happiness.