Charleston Tea Plantation

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Recent Tasting Notes

88

I think it is really cool to be able to drink tea that is commercially grown and produced in my home state. For a long time, we South Carolinians were the only folks in the country who had that priviledge (see the IMPORTANT UPDATE!!! below). What has made the honor even sweeter is that the Charleston Tea Plantation teas are also very good.

Since South Carolina is also the #1 peach mecca in the country, I was looking forward to tasting this blend. When I opened the container, the pre-brewed tea leaves had a very nice fresh peaches aroma. There was no physical evidence of peach chunks among the leaves, however.

I steeped this tea at 212 degrees for five minutes. The result was a reddish gold brew.

With the first one or two sips, my tastebuds could not locate the peaches. After the third and fourth sips, though, a subtle peach taste began to emerge. Sip #5 and on continued the very light and unassuming peach taste with a full Charleston Plantation tea flavor alongside it. There was no bitterness and I have no complaint about the flavor, except that I prefer strong flavors in everything I eat and drink.

If you crave robust fruity taste in your flavored teas, you may be disappointed by this blend. However, if subtlety is your desire, this tea is tasty, even, and pleasant. The discernible peach taste is fresh and natural, just not particularly hearty.

IMPORTANT UPDATE!!!
Many thanks to Steepster Bonnie, who just made me aware of another tea producer in the lower 48 states (besides South Carolina)! About five years ago, Sakuma Brothers Farms Market Stand in Burlington, Washington began selling teas grown and produced there. Here is more information about that: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20070911/BIZ/109110041/-1/headlines

Also, Steepster Bonnie put me on the trail of a collective of small growers in Hawaii who started a pilot project producing and marketing tea several years ago. I will do some research on that too.

I can see that I still have a lot to learn about the world of teas, but it’s a fun adventure!

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Bonnie

Not so Stoo but I understand you might be the oldest tea growers, not sure. There is a tea farm in the Skagit Valley in Washington State, and the of course you can’t forget Hawaii! But noone does sweet tea and peaches like the South!

Stoo

Thanks for educating me, Bonnie. I was not aware of the tea farm in Washington State. I didn’t know they were growing and processing tea up there. The Charleston Tea Plantation would probably be older. Hawaii I was aware of, but I should have clarified that I was talking about the lower 48 states. :-) I will correct my claim in my tasting note.

Bonnie

Don’t. change anything! I doubt many people know about Washington but I have family that lives in the area. The farm has an online store.

Stoo

No problem, Bonnie. Being a former journalist, it is pounded into me to strive to keep my writing accurate. Feel free to correct me anytime I say something that isn’t factual. I greatly appreciate it! Plus, there is no discord or competition between the two states that I am aware of. The Civil War ended a long time ago. :-) I plan to order some tea from the Skagit Valley. I’d love to try it!

ScottTeaMan

Many years ago I bout their Raspberry Black (loose), and it was quite delicious. I did find that the raspberry was more subtle, much like your description of the peach. I remember liking the more subtle flavoring of the tea.

ashmanra

I know Charleston Tea Plantation touts themselves as America’s only tea garden. Could it be that they once were and they just haven’t changed it on their logo, or is there some part of the definition of tea garden that would still make that statement apply? The fact that it is open to the public for tours? But I think most tea plantations are! So I don’t know!

Stoo: I knew I liked you! You remind me a little of my godfather, and he was a journalist, too! You are younger, though.

Bonnie

Stoo, what’s with the 22 likes in a row? Are we going steady? Your sweetheart better not get wind of this!

Stoo

Hi ScottTeaMan!

Raspberry Black is the only Charleston Tea Plantation tea that I haven’t tried. I hope to cross that one off of my tea bucket list soon! There is nothing wrong with subtle flavor. I’m just a little taste-challenged with my constant sinus allergies. Therefore, flavors have to be sand-blasted into my tastebuds in order for me to fully appreciate them. :-)

Stoo

Hi ashmanra!

From what I’ve been able to learn so far, it does appear that the Charleston Tea Plantation was the only and oldest still working U.S. tea plantation until recently. That’s ok. The more the merrier! :-)

And thanks…I like you too! ;-)

Stoo

Hey Bonnie.

SSSHHH! Our clandestine and steamy (or is it steepy?) tea affair is supposed to be a secret! ;-)
But, besides that, I’ve been feeling guilty about not getting out to Steepster as much as I should to review other people’s tasting notes. I love reading them all and I always learn something about teas in general and new teas for me to try. You just happened to be one of the first Steepster friends that I got to today. :-)

Bonnie

Shhhhh! Ok…won’t tell a soul! ; )

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84

I have had the 12ct with loose leaf inside the bags, which was VERY good. The 12ct box has a South Carolina Grown Certification seal on it. All of their products, besides the 48tagless have the seal on it, besides this one. I have asked a few times about why this is, but have yet to recieve a straight answer. How come when all other American Classic Tea products have the certification, why does the 48 tagless not? It seems peculiar to me. However, the tea I have tried of the 12ct box was extremely good and well balanced.

Mike

I have just recieved word that the 48tagless is in fact grown in America, I am still slightyl suspicious….but I have to believe it

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99

American Classic Black Tea from Charleston Tea Plantation is a real (Lipton style) black tea with flavor and body, nice without anything else added. It steeps in 2 – 3 minutes and never fails to please. The plantation is stunning, beautiful but management and financial difficulties prevent its full operation. http://south-carolina-plantations.com/charleston/charleston-tea.html

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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68

Island Green tea from Charleston Tea Plantation is an innocent, low-processed green tea. If you like strong, bracing tea, this will taste like grass cuttings. So steep one tea bag per tea cup for at least 5 minutes. It is fresh, clean, light, like a Stephen Foster song about the old South that drifts through the air. It comes in little cloth pouches that resemble ladies’ hosiery. We have things to learn from the Chinese and Indians before the tea will become popular. Apparently the variable climate of South Carolina makes growing the tea a challenge. The plantation is a nice tourist attraction, but I prefer their black tea to this innocent green.

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 5 min, 45 sec

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1

First, let me state that I like peaches. If a peach is just right, I love it.

Ok, I was in South Carolina-home of the only tea garden in the States. South Carolina is also the #1 producer of peaches in the States-sorry, Georgia. So, buying this tea was pretty much a no-brainer.

Loose tea in a car and in hotel rooms was too much a hassle, so I waited until I got home to try it-what a disaster. I opened the tin and was overwhelmed by the most intense, artificial peach aroma I have ever encountered. There was no way anyone was ever drinking this stuff on any plantation. It smelled EXACTLY like a peach soda pop I had had several years ago. They really poured it on. Strong enough to be a car air freshener-and better suited, imho.

The loose leafs? I don’t recall. However, there was not a drop of peach chunks, blossoms-anything-in there. This is a PEACH producing state, please give me some peaches in your peach tea!

The tea? What tea? The liquor was overwhelmed by the peach perfume factory in my cup! The tea had no chance. After several failed attempts to find a brew time and temp that might bring out a little of the tea, I gave up and happily unloaded it on my sister.

I see that the pyramid bag version of this tea has a few decent reviews. Maybe they used some sort of different flavoring at that time. I don’t know, but I have convinced myself to give this a 1.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
Blake

It’s always heartbreaking to see a clear 1+1 scenario and somehow wind up with -12.

Scott B

Indeed it is. Can we give it a -12? I started out in my mind give this about a 25-30, but then I got so worked up writing this review that I downgraded to a 1

Scott B

Seriously, I am the only reviewer and I give this tea a 1 and Steepster says, “Nope, 59”?!

Blake

Hahaha…I’ve been wondering how that averaging system works without multiple entries.

Scott B

There’s probably a thread about it in the discussion board. I think it’s like the SAT’s-they get a 59 for putting their name on the label! My single reviews for Banana Crepe, Greek Mountain, and Golden Needles were not adjusted too much-but all were adjusted upwards. I am thinking that they estimate the average tea to be a 75.

Bigelow Tea

Scott B, so sorry to read how disappointed you were with the Charleston Plantation Peach….we certainly appreciate the honesty of your review. I will certainly share your comments with our Marketing Tea for you
Kathy for Bigelow Tea

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72

Bought this while on vacation in South Carolina. It’s a basic, no-frills green tea. Nothing complex, but nothing that your palate needs to adjust to either. Slightly vegetal. Unlikely to offend, but just as unlikely to induce rabid affection. The loose tea was finely chopped? The tin lasted forever. For me, more a reminder of a great vacation than a great tea, but if you want to try a tea grown in the States, it’s not bad.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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80

Today I get to control how this is brewed. Go me! I used a healthy spoon and boiling water for 2 ½ minutes. I thought 3, Ashmanra suggested 2, and so I compromised :) The liquor is nice and dark. It smells much lighter than the dry leaf suggests. One comment on the wet leaf – this is CTC and the wet leaf does plump up nicely but not quite as much as say Twinings.

The taste is interesting. The bergamot is a tad lighter than I prefer in an EG, but tasty. It comes in late in the sip. The first taste is a very smooth bit of malt, emphasis on smooth. There is a drying aftertaste yet this doesn’t seem astringent when sipping. As the cup cools the bergamot becomes more pronounced, which appeals to me. I let the last of the cup get cold and I liked it. This would make a good iced tea. Today, the second cup is not as good as the first but still drinkable.

This is a pleasant cup. I can’t think of anything to compare it to. It is as far removed from Twinings as it is Harney & Sons. Obviously, the American aspect of it appeals to me. It breaks the rules of tradition and it still works. I started to give this a 76 as in ‘spirit of’, but in reality it is a little more interesting than that. If I could buy this locally, I would keep a small tin around for the novelty alone. I was told it was $6 for 2.3 oz (50g).

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 30 sec
gmathis

Charleston Tea’s American Classic is another good’un. Basic and unpretentious.

ashmanra

LOL! I just mailed you a bunch of Charleston tea in your box, gmathis! I thought maybe it would be new to you since it is sort of “local”! Heehee! Well, maybe you won’t have had these flavors yet.

gmathis

Cool—actually, the Classic is the only one I’ve tried. (All this talk of SC makes me miss my Tea Shop Mysteries. I think there’s a new one out.)

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80

A co-worker (not the cheesecake guy) came back from vacation having taken the South Carolina tea plantation tour. He didn’t want to go – his wife pushed him into it. He said it actually turned out to be the most interesting thing they did on vacation. He wanted to share what he had learned. It was a bit of a refresher course but I pretended it was all new so as not to squash his excitement. He bought a book, and a video, with me in mind, but forgot them this morning :( but did remember a tin of this tea :)

On to the tea. There are no brewing instructions on the tin. Ingredients are tea and oil of bergamot. It smells great in the tin. The leaf is very small pieces of CTC. I am going to reserve rating this until I get control of the steep. Today I was handed a press with the leaf already brewed once. It did not appear there was enough leaf. This may also prove to be a tea that cannot be steeped twice. It has been so long since I have had a black that could only be steeped once that I almost forgot that is normal. The tea is dark enough but the taste isn’t there. The coworker who drank the first steep compared it to bagged Twinnings Earl Grey. I took a scoop of leaf out of the tin and put it in a plastic bag to try later.

Dinosara

I was recently in Charleston and was interested in this tea, but couldn’t bring myself to buy a whole tin of it because I knew it was going to be a CTC and that I probably wouldn’t be that much of a fan. Interested to see how you feel about a first steep of it!

ashmanra

I don’t think I would give a CTC much more than two minutes…

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44

I haven’t had this tea since last semester. This time I only used one teaspoon for my cup. I’m not quite sure how much I was supposed to use, so this is a guess.

The liquid is a nice amber. It smells like damp earth. It isn’t unpleasant to drink. It tastes toasty and roasty. It also tastes a little bit like wood and slightly dries out my mouth. It tastes nice, but I’m not sure if I actually care for it or not. Nothing really jumps out at me. Of course, this could be that she has had this tin of tea for a long period of time and it is still mostly full.

So, it is a nice cup of tea, but not something I would drink most of the time. It is kinda “meh”. The more I sip it, the more it doesn’t really taste like much.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Bigelow Tea

Meg, one teaspoon is correct….the flavor will weaken over time. Drinking within 1-2 years from when product was purchased, would be our recommendation for the best overall flavor profile for this particular tea….thanks so much for your review….it was a pleasure to read and we really appreciate your comments
Kathy for Bigelow Tea

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44

My roommate bought this tea during the summer before our sophmore year of college. She brought it with her this year for us to try.

The liquid was very dark and it smelled earthy. The tea leaves smelled a little bit like damp dirt. The tea itself tasted very woody to me. It was interesting. I never really had a tea that tasted like wood. It wasn’t a bad taste. Just unexpected.

I’m leaving this unrated for now until I try another cup or two. Then I will know how I like it.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 15 sec

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78

Tea bag sipdown day tea number 2! Like most of the other teas I still have in bagged form, this one was also a gift. I suspect after sipping this one, that I have become a true Earl Grey fan. Between this and the ones I’ve tried at David’s Tea, I’ve yet to find one I didn’t like. This one, however, is definitely a favourite. Smooth, light, and a lovely blend of tea and bergamot, I am definitely enjoying this cup. If all bagged teas were like this, I wouldn’t have abandoned them for my looseleaf.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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95

Its been ages since I brewed this one, so this afternoon I had multiple cups. I love this one because while there is definitely a great black base, the peach flavour is there and strong. Peach is one of my favourite fruit flavours and I find it really hard to find done well in a tea, so this tea has a special place in my heart. It’s actually the only bagged tea I keep in stock here on a consistent basis, I love it that much!

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C

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95

I honestly can’t wrap my mind around the low-ish rating on this one. This is my favourite peach tea I have found in my tea tasting history. And that includes loose leaf! This is a true peach, none of those scents like bath and body works or flavours like peach tang. This, when brewed, tastes like someone has dripped juice directly from a peach into your glass. My only sadness is that this is a small brand that was bought out by Bigelow. Which, yay getting the tea to more people, but still, I wish more independent companies were just that, truly independent.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Bigelow Tea

Tina, we are very happy to hear how much you enjoy the Peach flavor, in the Charleston Plantation Peach. Although Bigelow, a small family owned company, did obtain this piece of the business, please rest assurred that the Charleston Tea Gardens will continue to offer their teas true to that of an independent company.
Kathy for Bigelow Tea

Stoo

Kathy,

I greatly hope you are correct, and the integrity, high quality, and exceptional formulating of Charleston Plantation teas will not be pillaged, as so often happens when small companies are gobbled up by larger ones. It is ironic that I am reading this note now. I just picked up a tin of Plantation Peach tea an hour ago at one of our local markets in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The Charleston Tea Plantation has been very special to South Carolinians for a long time. It has more recently become special far beyond our beloved state.

As the only working tea plantation that remains in the United States, it is very important that the Charleston Tea Plantation be allowed to continue to flourish using the excellence that can only exist from independent effort.

Sincerely,

Stoo (A concerned Charleston Plantation Tea lover)

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72

I got a box or two just a month ago from a friend of mine for my birthday. To my surprise, It was AMERICAN and AMERICAN made tea! I knew I just have to try a bag or two and found it to be quite tasty with lots of milk and sugar.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 min, 45 sec
Bigelow Tea

Anthony, great to hear your were so pleasantly surprised by the American Classic Tea. Please check out and enter for a trip to the Charleston Tea Gardens, where this fine tea is grown. Need to hurry though, last day to enter is January 31st, tomorrow!
http://www.bigelowteablog.com/sweepstakes/

Kathy for Bigelow Tea

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73

Received this tea yesterday from Bigelow. This is MUCH better than the Classic. Brews fast so give it a two-minute steep with near-boiled water or even three minutes if you like your tea with a more bold flavour. I still prefer the Ceylon blends, but this tea is definitely something with which I’ll experiment. I ripped a bag open and the leaf is a nice size which explains why it infuses so well. A very pleasant brew. It’s nice to know that they are paying attention to tea in the Lower 48!

*Addendum: I just blended it with a bag of Bigelow Premium Ceylon in a ten-ounce mug for three minutes and it was excellent!

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62

I received my box from Bigelow yesterday! I ordered this tea, the Premium Ceylon and Classic Charleson Breakfast Tea. Firstly, this tea is bagged. There is also a pyramid version as well as loose tea. As with every first-time tea, I varied the steeping time for four bags (one minute intervals on a rising scale). The aroma is pleasant but gets notably deeper and even a little harsh the longer it steeps. Three minutes seems to be the most effective steeping time (for me) as the tannin is more evident and the bitterness tolerable without being overwhelming. A pleasant tea perhaps more suited for Southern-style iced tea. Evidently, American Classic Tea has been the official White House tea since 1987 and is officially designated as the Hospitality Beverage of South Carolina.

Yawn.

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97

I was extremely psyched this weekend when I discovered that the mom and pop peach stand down the road sells Charleston Tea Plantation teas! Now I know how Columbus felt in 1492! I had just learned about these teas during my trip to Charleston last week and I figured I’d have to wait until my next trek to that great city before I could buy more. What made my discovery even sweeter was when I found that I can buy the teas locally for about 25% less than what they cost me in Charleston! So, needless to say, I picked up an additional variety of this wonderful tea.

The Governor Gray tea, like the other selections from this company that I’ve tried so far, has a very smooth and full flavor. The bergamot presence is light, but you know it is there by the citrus undertones that exist in every sip. Perhaps it only seems light to me because I am accustomed to the supercharged double bergamot tea blend produced by Stash. In any case, this is a very nice and tasty tea. I steeped it for four minutes at 212 degrees. This seemed to result in a hint of bitterness, but nothing to detract from my pleasure in drinking this tea. Next time I will lighten up and cut a minute off of the steeping time.

UPDATE: I did diminish the steeping time to three minutes to see if the slight bitterness that I experienced at four minutes would disappear. The results are in. To quote Goldilocks, “This one is just right!”

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
Bigelow Tea

Stoo, so happy to read your post on your recent discovery! We love to hear how the simple joy of finding a new flavor, or an existing favorite can bring our consumers pleasure! Thanks so much for sharing your experience
Kathy for Bigelow Tea

Stoo

It’s my pleasure, Kathy. I love sampling new teas. This has really become a fun adventure for me! Happy New Year!

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97

This is another one of the Charleston Tea Plantation loose leaf teas that I picked up while I was in Charleston, South Carolina, last week. Although I like several strong cups of potent black tea in the morning to get my remaining brain cells chugging, I decided to give this green tea a try today. I am so glad I did! I set the Breville One-Touch Tea Maker for medium-strength green tea, with a brewing time of three minutes at 175 degrees. The flavor of this tea is smooth as silk. The taste of mint is cool and refreshing without overpowering the light but steady essence of the tea. Bitterness is not part of this tea’s vocabulary, even 40 minutes after brewing. I drank three cups this morning and still yearned for more!

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82

I was in Charleston, South Carolina, last week and just couldn’t resist picking up some loose leaf tea grown on the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea plantation in the United States. The Charleston Breakfast Tea variety brewed for four minutes, resulting in a vibrant amber color. The flavor is pleasant, although not multi-dimensional or particularly bold. The taste is slightly nutty but lacks sweetness that my worn tastebuds are able to detect. All-in-all, this is a kind and gentle breakfast tea that will softly stir you from your slumber.

Alan Mueller

I wasn’t a big fan of it,but reading this review makes it sound insatiable for the morning;so i’ll give it another try. Thanks. :)

Kashyap

Just so you know…not the only tea plantation in the USA…Sakuma Brothers in Skagit Valley Washington is also produced in the US…FYI

Stoo

Hi Alan!

Yes, give it a try. You won’t be sorry! Thanks for your comment!

Stoo

Stoo

Hi Kashyap!

I heard about the Sakuma Brothers several months ago. It is a fairly recent tea venture. I believe they are calling themselves a “farm” and haven’t reached “plantation” status yet. However, they are tea growers nevertheless. Thanks for keeping me straight!

To learn more about the Sakuma Brothers tea farm, go here: http://shop.sakumabros.com/tea.aspx

Stoo

Kashyap

yeah…I already know and work with Richard and offer the Green and Oolong through our website and store…

Stoo

Very cool, Kashyap! Please send me the link to your website. I’d love to take a look at it!

Stoo

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34

Recently, I was given some American Classic Tea. Currently this is the only tea grown in the continental United States. The tea confusingly says Loose Leaf Tea in a Pyramid Bag, which is a direct contradiction. In many ways this is a traditional red tea, dark color, single infusion, and elements of bright citrus, perhaps too bright, as I’m about to explain; with a full mouthfeel. What makes this tea unusual, and I am unsure if this is because of the tea itself or the packaging that it arrives in, is a strange sour/sweet metallic taste in the forefront of the flavor profile. While not immediately bad tasting, it is very strange compared with, well any other tea I’ve tasted, as if the tea were almost completely devoid of tannins.

How I brewed it:

In terms of brewing trials, I brewed the tea two ways, once in a mug, for 3 minutes, and a second time, where I removed the tea from it’s bag, and brewed it in a gaiwan (lidded bowl) for roughly one minute. Because I got the strange metallic flavor in the first trial, I decided to try making in the gaiwan, sans bag, to see if that removed any of the metallic brightness, which it did not.

Overall, due to the almost unpleasant brightness, I’m going to give the tea a fairly low rating, however it did fulfill the other criteria of being a basic red tea, and by no means is it totally undrinkable, however, there are many, many other better bagged teas, with less ostentatious and incorrect marketing, that are far cheaper and less pretentious.

From additional readings, it seems that it really is primarily used to make iced tea, and sweet tea at that, where one really only uses tea as a carrier for syrup, and the ultra-brightness would likely work quite well.

Roundup info:

Origin: Con. US

(Indian + Chinese crossbreed?)

Type: Red (Black)

Packaging: Pyramid Bag, Foil Packet

Plantation/Company: Charleston Tea Plantation, owned by Bigelow

Steeping Info:

Time 2-4 minutes

Temperature: 205-210 F

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 15 sec

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69

Having been disappointed with most peach flavored teas, I was pleasantly surprised by this. I picked up one sachet in a gift store in a tourist trap, remembering a friend mentioning liking the Charleston teas. This was a good buy and I’ll definitely be buying more. Very strong peach smell and flavor as well. Nice honest, basic black tea as the base.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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100

I like light-flavored teas and this is my favorite peach tea of all time. I like the delicacy and subtlety of the peach flavor. The peach doesn’t overwhelm the tea and vice versa. I also love the fact that I am supporting a US product.

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100

This tea is a definite favorite of mine. I like how the raspberry flavor is very much present and distinct without overwhelming the tea itself. I find that this tea requires no sweetening whatsoever. I grew up going to my grandparents’ summer home on an island very near Wadmalaw, so the Charleston Tea Plantation teas are really something special to me. I will definitely be buying more.

Preparation
3 min, 0 sec

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100

This is my absolute favorite Earl Gray. Growing up, I spent my summers on an island very near Wadmalaw, so I jumped at the chance to visit the tea plantation and try their teas. My mother and I left with arm loads of boxes in just about every flavor, but I think this and the Rockville Raspberry are my favorites, followed by the peach. You can really taste the care they put into making these teas.

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