In my last blog post, I shared my love of tea and my success in finding a U.S.-grown product. I ordered Island Green and Breakfast Blend (black) from the American Classic Tea line produced by the Charleston Tea Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina. They offer a number of bagged teas, as well as the loose leaf teas from which I chose. I’ve been drinking them for several days now, and am ready to offer my opinions.
First, a look at the packaging. The teas arrived in tins that are attractive, space-saving, stack-able and utilitarian. Tea aficionados know that tea should be stored in opaque containers away from moisture, and these metal tins do the job nicely. I look forward to using them for years to come. The package itself was shipped with a return address label from Bigelow. Okay, if I had done a more thorough examination of the web site, I would have seen that Bigelow bought the plantation in 2003. I’d prefer it still be a family-owned business, but at least the tea is U.S. grown using no pesticides of any kind.
The tea leaves themselves smell fresh, just as they should. The green tea leaves are a delightful green color, as well. So far, so good. I made tea using my enamel tea pot with stainless steel infuser. A couple of times, I added some organic peppermint leaves to my tea when I wanted a change of flavor–one of the advantages of ordering an unflavored teas.
I must say, I have not had a bad cup of tea out of these yet; even when I forgot and left some black tea steeping about two hours, the tea was, well, drinkable, although it was certainly not fresh at that point. The tea has no bitterness, as older, poorer quality teas often do, so no sweetener is needed unless you simply prefer it. When made properly (not forgotten in the teapot) with water at the correct temperature, both teas go down smooth and soothing. If you are looking for a stronger tea flavor, use more tea leaves.
The one odd thing is that the tea leaves are not whole. Instead, they are small, broken tea leaf pieces. Perhaps it was naive to expect whole leaves, but since the only other products offered in their online store are tea bags–which conventionally contain dust-sized particles of tea leaves–I have to wonder what they are doing with the whole leaves they harvest. At first I thought they might sell them to other companies or use them in a tea marketed under another brand; but, according to their FAQ page, quite a lot of people have had the same question, and the answer is direct: “No, American Classic Teas are the only teas made from the green leaf produced by the Camellia Sinensis plants grown on the grounds of the Charleston Tea Plantation.” Their web site does say they offer “First Flush” tea at festivals (or “Festeavals”), so perhaps the whole leaves go into tea used for such occasions.
Regardless, the bottom line is that both varieties I bought taste good and, to my mind, make satisfactory cup after cup of tea. The price is comparable to other, plain loose teas from specialty stores. The clear advantage these teas have over their competitors is you know where the tea was grown, harvested and packaged, and the methods they use for doing so. If you’re looking for a decent cup of tea you can trust, from heirloom trees grown in the U.S. without pesticides, American Classic Tea from Charleston Tea Plantation will certainly meet your needs.