May 15, 2011

The History of American Tea Gardens

Camellia bush in a misty morning (Descanso Gardens, Oct 2007)

Camellia collection in the Elezabethan Gardens (Nov. 2010)

Most of readers, I believe, would be hard-pressed to name a tea plantation in America except Lipton's Charleston Tea Plantation .  For me, the closest connection to American Tea Gardens would be the two camellia gardens I have visited--Descanso Gardens in Glendale (about 20 minutes drive east of LA) and Elizabethan Gardens  near Outer Banks, NC,  plus the "pride and joy" bush in a protected spot of my backyard!  From my experience, camellia plant is similar in temperament as my other favorite plant: gardenia.  Once the combination of right weather, location and soil are provided, it would proliferate without much extra attention. 

Few years ago, I dreamed of making my cup of tea from a tea plant in my own yard and had thus ordered various frost-free camellia plants from Camellia Forest Nursery .  Somehow none of the 20 plants survived after 2 years of struggle.

However, a recent article in the Word Tea News about The History of American Tea Gardens revived my hope about fresh American teas in the making from Alabama, Hawaii , SC, Washington, Oregon and Pacific NW areas.  If successful, a tea plantation tour similar to the winery tour would be my next travel pursuit!