Even though we were in Charleston in January, I had not heard of the Charleston Tea Garden until I was researching things for us to do in the area during our most recent stay. The Charleston Tea Garden is just south of the city on Johns Island, so we combined our trip there with a visit to the Angel Oak and Edisto Beach State Park to make a full day adventure.
I am a huge tea lover, so as soon as I read about the tea garden, I told Will we were going. It is the only place in the United States that grows and manufactures its own tea. While the garden is technically owned by Bigelow teas, the tea produced here does not make it into the mass-produced Bigelow teas. Instead, it is packaged and sold locally. And it is delicious.
Getting around southern South Carolina is more tricky than it seems, as when you look at a map, places appear to be close together, however, the various islands along the coast typically have very few roads to the mainland, let alone connecting one another, so while places may be a few miles apart as the crow flies, you have to drive a lot further to get from place to place.
The Charleston Tea Garden is located near the end of Johns Island. It is a beautiful property with many moss-covered oaks and acres upon acres of beautifully manicured tea plants. We explored the grounds that are open to the public on our arrival, then I went inside to take the factory tour and do a little shopping at the gift store. Will wandered around some more with the girls but ended up taking everyone to the truck when the bugs started to get to them.
The factory tour was really interesting. You walk along the production floor that is behind glass and watch short videos at 4 stops along the manufacturing process. I learned all about growing tea (which is perfectly suited for the South Carolina summers that reach 100°F most days and get lots of rain), the harvesting process (which is done by the “Green Giant” machine), and the cutting, drying, and oxidation processes (which is what turns a single type of tea leaf into green [no oxidation], oolong [15 minutes oxidation], and black tea [50 minutes]). There was one other couple on the tour with me and social distancing was incredibly easy. I was impressed with the adaptations in place to make the entire experience COVID-friendly.
Once I finally pulled myself from the gift shop (it is a good thing I remembered we live tiny!), we made our way back toward the mainland to see the Angel Oak. Like the bur oak we saw at Clemson, this oak is huge and absolutely beautiful. The property is privately owned, but it is free to visit and dogs are allowed (though must be kept at least 100 feet away from the tree). We made our stop here fairly quick as there were SO MANY SQUIRRELS, including a gorgeous albino squirrel, and Daisy wanted nothing more than to chase them all. Visiting the tree was a serene experience even with a barking dog and rambunctious toddler because of the majestic expanse of the tree and the surroundings.
From there, we grabbed some lunch then headed back onto the mainland then further south onto Edisto Island. We ventured to the very end of the island to Edisto Beach State Park. By the time we arrived at the park, it was getting late in the afternoon, so we had some beautiful afternoon light to wander the beach and find shells. During the previous trips to the beach, Little Bird has shown no interest in shells, however, it was like a switch went off in her mind when we set foot on this beach and she realized that shells are a treasure that we will actually allow her to bring home (within reason). She had so much fun running along the beach and collecting as many shells as she could carry. She and I sat down and searched for the best shells for quite awhile while Will and Daisy did a little fishing. Bird is not fond of getting sand on her hands, so she quickly learned to shake the shells to remove any sand before closely inspecting them.
We were still on the beach as the sun started to set, and we made our way back to the parking lot to see some amazing colors fill the sky. As we drove around the island a little more, the colors of the sunset continued to deepen, and it was such a beautiful way to end the day.
As with many of our daytrips, we fit so many activities into a single day and the day turned out to be longer than we had anticipated. Since this is kind of becoming our thing, we embrace these days and feel so blessed to have this time together. We made it back to Cate with enough time to get Bird some dinner and get her to bed before any major meltdowns (and that is the ultimate goal).
Everything about our day exploring southern South Carolina was truly delightful, and we continue to get a taste of our adventure with every cup of tea we brew. We highly recommend checking out all of these places, and we know we will be back when we return to South Carolina in the future.
This daytrip marked the end of our stay in South Carolina, and even though we continue heading south the warmer weather, we had such an incredible time exploring the state that moving on was a little bittersweet.