Commercial tea production first started in 1744, when tea seeds were sent to the Trustees’ Garden in Savannah, Georgia. But it was not until 1772 that successful cultivation was first recorded on Skidaway Island, near Savannah. There were also some decent crops in Greenville, South Carolina, from 1848 until 1853, as well as at the Pinehurst Tea Plantation, also in South Carolina, which was established in 1888 by Dr Charles Shepard, and went on to produce some award-winning teas until Shepard’s death in 1915.
Pinehurst was left wild and untended until 1963, when the Lipton Tea Company, worried about the political stability of the developing countries producing tea, moved the surviving tea plants at Pinehurst to Wadmalaw Island, off the coast of South Carolina, on the grounds of a former potato farm. It was run as an experimental tea farm until 1987, when Liptons sold the plantation and it became the Charleston Tea Plantation, famed for its ‘American Classic Tea’, a tea that became the official White House tea and remains so to this day.
The Charleston Tea Plantation was sold in 2003 to the Bigelow Tea Company, which renovated the estate, and the garden reopened in 2006, producing machine- harvested black, oolong and green teas.