History


A Scenic view of the tea fields

A Scenic view of the tea fields

THE CHARLESTON TEA GARDEN'S HISTORY

In the late 1700s, tea bushes, also known as Camellia Sinensis, first arrived in the United States from China. Several attempts were made in South Carolina over the next 150 years to propagate and produce tea for consumption, but none were successful.  Not until 1888, when Dr. Charles Shepard founded the Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville, South Carolina did American grown tea become a reality.  In Summerville, Dr. Shepard created award winning teas until his death in 1915.  After his passing, the Pinehurst Tea Plantation closed and Dr. Shepard's tea plants grew wild for the next forty five years.

In 1963, a 127 acre potato farm located on Wadmalaw Island in the Lowcountry of South Carolina was purchased and Shepard's tea plants were transplanted from Pinehurst to the farm.  For the next 24 years research was conducted on this experimental farm.  In 1987, William Barclay Hall purchased the land.  Hall, a third-generation tea taster who received his formal training during a four-year tea apprenticeship in London, England, converted the research and development farm to a commercial operation.  Thanks to Hall's vision the Charleston Tea Garden was founded.  During his seventeen year tenure, his original "American Classic" tea became the first tea ever to be made with 100% tea grown in America. For almost thirty years, American Classic has been immensely popular with tea lovers in the Carolinas.   

In 2003, seeking additional financing, Bill reached out to his longtime friends, the Bigelow family.  A partnership arrangement was worked out and the Bigelow Tea Company bought the garden.  The Bigelows brought sixty-five years of experience in the specialty tea business to the Garden and the American Classic brand.  Since 2003 the Charleston Tea Garden has transformed into a true American icon.  American Classic Tea has maintained its faithful fans since its start in the late 1980s and thanks to Bill Hall's creativity, many new teas have been added under the Charleston Tea Garden brand. 

On June 9th, 2020 the name of this tea farm changed from the Charleston Tea Plantation to the Charleston Tea Garden. This land has been farm country for decades so we knew that changing the name from plantation to garden represented the land appropriately. We are also sensitive to the fact that plantation is a word that carries significant pain for many in this country and throughout the world. Bigelow Tea has worked hard to create an environment of inclusion and equality but as an organization and as individuals, we know we can always do better.

Today the Charleston Tea Garden offers more than just a cup of fresh tea.  Thanks to the Bigelow Family, the true working tea farm presents a learning experience unlike any other in the country!