Charleston Tea Plantation: Tour America’s One and Only Tea Plantation

Charleston is one of those places you can visit over and over again; each time finding a different experience. It’s our third trip here and we are on the hunt for something beyond the downtown historical district.

Roughly 20 miles southwest of the lively city, the bucolic lowcountry of Wadmalaw Island lies along the water’s edge.

It is home to the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in North America. With its high humidity, rich soil, and plentiful yearly rainfall, this corner of South Carolina is the ideal location for tea.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Welcome to America’s only tea garden, the Charleston Tea Plantation.

What to Expect on your Visit

Towering oak trees and flourishing pink azaleas welcome us to the grounds. Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy the southeast during springtime?

We drove up from Savannah and the blooming flowers were all over the city, adding a stark contrast to the dark ironwork throughout the neighborhoods.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Can’t beat South Carolina in the spring!

After purchasing our $12 trolley tour tickets at the gift shop, we have a half hour to take a look around.

Free tea samples, hot and cold, are planted inside the gift shop so we grab a cup and mosey on to the back for the factory tour.

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Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Where is tea made in the world?
Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Free samples!

Learning a Whole Lot about the Tea Process on the Factory Tour

The factory tour is a brief self-guided tour designed to show you how tea is made. I must admit before our visit I knew absolutely NOTHING about tea!

And I am a tea drinker.

Only a glass window separates us from the factory floor where the magic happens. Albeit a short introduction, the video and signs teach us a great deal about the process from start to finish.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
The withering bed removes the moisture

Once the tea bushes reach maturity and are ready to harvest, the big green machine hovers over and cuts the tender tea leaves on top.

From there, they are brought into the factory to begin the withering stage.

Charleston things to do
The big green machine ready to work.
Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Did you know tea is naturally disease and insect free?

Because the leaves have 80% moisture, they have to be laid out on a bed to wilt some of it away. Then the leaves hit the grinder to rupture the cell walls to expose the tea juices to the air.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Would you look at that… a tea leaf!

The length of oxidation, how long the tea is exposed, is what determines what kind of tea you make.

This is where the leaves create their rich flavor. For instance, black tea which is stronger in flavor, spends 50 minutes on the oxidation bed versus 15 minutes for oolong and 0 minutes for green tea.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Walking the grounds at the Tea Plantation.

It’s time for our trolley tour so we head out back, but not before filling another cup of free tea. “Maybe I’ll try Rockville Raspberry this time,” I inform my husband as he is trying shot-size samples. I realize he is taking this whole “free sample” thing as a challenge.

Challenge accepted!

I think his goal is to try each and every one by the time we leave.

Waddy the Frog

As we wait to board the trolley, I take a break off my feet next to the tea-loving mascot, Waddy the Frog.

Charles “Frog” Smith, a local sculptor, custom made Waddy for the plantation. His name comes from the location on Wadmalaw Island.

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Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
If I kiss him will he turn into a prince?

The Trolley Tour

Man O’ War – the trolley for the tour – slowly pulls in and opens its doors.

Charleston things to do
Trolley Tour at the Charleston Tea Plantation

Our guide, standing at the entrance, is asking each person where they are from as they enter. He has a little fun fact for each city that is proclaimed.

He never skips a beat!

It’s apparent immediately that he enjoys his job. He has a lighthearted nature with a smile on his face to match.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Trolley Tour at the Charleston Tea Plantation.

And on to the Greenhouse We Go

With over 5,000 tea plants an acre, sprawling green rows of shrubbery line the 127-acre plantation. In fact, the guide tells us we will be passing hundreds of thousands of tea bushes on the way.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.

As the trolley closes its doors and we start moving the founder of the tea plantation, Bill Hall, comes over the speaker. While we circle the tea fields, we learn about the history of the plantation, more about the tea process and how the plants are grown.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
The tea plants spend about five years forming a good root system in the nursery.

Then, we take a short break at the greenhouse to see the fledgling tea plants as they begin to form roots.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Baby tea plants.

Before leaving, we stop back in the gift shop to buy some souvenirs for my tea-drinking family members. I make note of the adorable tea sets by the register as I was checking out. I wish we still had youngins in the family; they would make the perfect gift.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
Sitting on over 120 acres, the Charleston Tea Plantation has countless rows of tea bushes.

If you are looking for a unique thing to do near Charleston, this may just be your cup of tea! If you decide to get off the beaten path, add Firefly Distillery, the largest distillery in the state, and the Angel Oak Tree, one the oldest living trees east of the Mississippi, to your itinerary.

Keep scrolling for more pictures and information!

World’s Largest Sweet Tea!

When is the Best Time to Visit the Charleston Tea Plantation?

The plantation is open year round with something going on every season:

Winter: Harvesting season is over and the plants are dormant but tours are still given.

Spring: Flowers are blooming and the harvest season begins in May.

Summer: The peak time for harvesting and production.

Fall:  Harvesting and production ends around end of September, beginning of October. The flowers from the tea plants bloom and millions of butterflies arrive.

No matter what time of year you visit, try to plan your trip during the production hours so you can see the action firsthand.

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Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
A unique thing to do near Charleston, America’s only tea plantation.

Charleston Tea Plantation Hours

The Charleston Tea Plantation is open seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Mondays through Saturdays and 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM on Sundays.

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.
A little tea history for you.

Know Before You Go

  • Address: 6617 Maybank Highway, Charleston, SC
  • General Admission is FREE, there is only a charge for the trolley tour.
  • Trolley Tour lasts for 30 – 40 minutes.
  • If you are using a rideshare like Uber, make arrangements for a ride back beforehand. It can be difficult once you reach the plantation.
  • The plantation is closed for some major holidays.

Looking for Other Places in the Southeast to Visit?

Have you ever visited Charleston? What was your favorite thing to do?

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Not only is it a cool and unique thing to do near Charleston, it is the only tea plantation in America! #charleston #southcarolina

Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in America, is worth a side trip. Here's all you need to know to plan your visit.

10 Responses

  1. Candy

    I’ve never been to this and wish I had known about it. I had no idea there was only one in the US. That map of the tea production was so interesting. Had no idea a lot of them were in Africa.

  2. Corinne Y Vail

    Butterflies in the tea fields? I never would have imagined it. Nor would I have imagined a tea plantation in Charleston. We will be making a visit!

  3. Greg

    Been wanting to visit Charleston for a while. Will definitely have to visit the tea plantation when there. Spring seems like a great time of year to visit!

  4. Tif

    my gosh i had no idea this was the only one in North America!! I will actually be there in 3 weeks!! I am excited, i will definitely go here!

  5. Erica Edwards

    Very cool! I had no idea there was a tea plantation in Charleston! Nor did I realize that there were so many tea plantations in east Africa. It would be incredible to visit in the autumn when the flowers are in bloom and the butterflies arrive, sounds like an absolute dream!

  6. Jen

    I love the fact that it was a trolley that took you on the tour. It just adds to that quaintness I associate with Charleston. Was it busy? Did you have to book in advance?

    • Dang Travelers

      We did not make reservations or purchase tickets online ahead of time, I believe they are only available in person at the plantation. We waited about 20 minutes for a tour. It wasn’t too busy but we did go on a weekday afternoon.

  7. Sandy N Vyjay

    This is a very interesting trip that you had. First of all, love the look of the trolley, and again tea gardens and the entire process of tea making fascinates us. Though the flat tea beds come as a surprise for the tea plantations in India like those in Darjeeling are usually on slopes. A visit to a tea garden is always such a satisfactory experience.

  8. Maggie

    I’ve been to Charleston close to 20 times (my brother went to college there) but have never made it out to the tea plantation! I have been to Angel Oak though, so I’ve been close! But I really need to fix that. I’ll make sure it’s on the itinerary for my next trip, because it looks like a fun place to visit!

  9. Carol

    How interesting is that? I’ve seen tea plantations in Taiwan but not here and nnAmerica! Had I know n one is here in Charleston!

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