Sweet tea in the South is pretty much a staple. If you order iced tea in any restaurant they’ll confirm you want Sweet Tea. Because, who in their right mind would want plain old tea? Especially down South where you’re having tea harvested nearby, on a tea plantation. Is it any wonder they found unique ways to serve this local refreshment on a steaming hot day?
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Stirred up with plenty of sugar and served over a glassful of ice. Sweet tea is even better when you’ve steeped it in the sun. Sun tea loaded with sugar. Ahhhh…. sweet tea. It’s synonymous with summer in the South.
Charleston Tea Garden
Tucked out of the way on Wadmalaw Island, the Charleston Tea Garden is home to the original “American Classic” tea which was the first tea ever to be made with 100% tea grown in America. Tea was first planted in 1700’s America from tree bushes brought from China. It took another 150 years to propagate and produce tea for consumption. Finally, Dr. Charles Shepard was successful in 1888. With its sandy soils, sub-tropical climate, South Carolina provided terrain perfect for growing Camellia Sinensis tea plants.
The plants have been cultivated to produce both black and green teas in 320 varieties on the 127-acre site. You can view the factory and gift shop for free, but there is a charge for the Trolley Tour. We couldn’t resist the chance to sit down and learn a little more as we circled the fields. Some of the information was shared via video clips on the bus; at other times, the tour guide pointed out sights aand answered questions — all while we sipped from the samples of iced tea we brought aboard the trolley from the gift shop.
Sweet Tea Vodka & Whiskey
Originally, Firefly Distillery was located on Wadmalaw Island alongside the Charleston Tea Garden. The island isn’t that big, so I’m sure the combination of these two different drinking establishments would have made a great afternoon escape. Now you only need an hour or so in either one, though you could find ways to sit a spell and imbibe in sweet teas however you like.
The Firefly Distillery capitalized on the sweet success of sweet tea by putting their own alcoholic spin on it. They concocted Sweet Tea Vodka, which seems to be highly addictive.
But as we tried sample after sample of the creations bottled at Firefly Distillery, we discovered that we liked the Sweet Tea Whiskey even more!
So we bought a few bottles… and they were even kind enough to load our boxload of bounty into our car for us. 😉
Now that I’m home with bottles from Firefly Distillery and boxes of tea bags from Charleston Tea Garden, I can enjoy the tastes of sweet tea from the South right on my own back deck. It’s just as refreshing as I remember. It feels like I brought summer home.
Are you a fan of sweet tea?
Same here in Granbury Texas. The server always ask, and if you say “none sweet” they look at you like you have a third eye on your forehead. I lived in Charleston and was building a project on the base during Desert Storm. Great city and folks.
Hahaha. My daughter-in-law is from Texas and has probably never had unsweetened tea. 🙂 I agree — Charleston is a great city with fantastic people.
We just completed a swing through some southern states and found sweet tea to be a fixture on nearly every menu. While we didn’t have much, it may have been because we didn’t see the vodka-infused version on the menu.
The Sweet Tea Vodka was in a league all its own. 🙂
My introduction to Iced tea was Constant Comment, Juliann, but there was no sugar. My mother was all for the straight stuff. Coffee was to be consumed black without cream or sugar. Likewise tea. I loved it. I used to not drink anything for the last hour or so I worked in the orchards so I could come home with a ‘terrible’ thirst. Half a pitcher was just about enough. So, I’ve maintained that ‘purity’ for all of my life. Now sweet tea with vodka might make me change my mind. 🙂 Thanks for the bit of history. –Curt
I typically drink my coffee and tea without any cream or sugar, too, Curt. Unless I’m in the South. Where sugar in my iced tea just feels “right.” 🙂
Yep, definitely a fan of sweet tea! It’s good mixed with lemonade too…
I’ll have to ask my daughter-in-law whether she’s tried that!