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Bigelow Tea and the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina

Updated on November 11, 2012

The Comfort of Tea

I enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon.
I enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon. | Source

My Tea Experience

Nonie introduced me to tea drinking when I was just five-Red Rose with milk and sugar. I came to love the warm comfort that the milky sweetness brought. Besides hot chocolate, it was my favorite drink on cold afternoons in Michigan.

Irish born Margaret, a devout Roman Catholic, came to America as a young girl. When I was nine, I’d stay overnight at her home visiting with her granddaughter, and going to Church Sunday mornings. Following mass, my godmother would lie out her Irish linen table runner and napkins, set out her fine china cups, saucers, creamer and sugar bowl, and have tea with Debbie and I. It was a delightful highlight of the visit.

When I met Dick my tea drinking evolved. Broad shouldered with chiseled good looks, his beaming smile was eye-catching. We’d ride through autumn leaves, my arms wrapped shyly around his waist. When we’d finally stop at a café along the way, he’d order his tea plain, soaking up the flavor without masking it with milk and sugar. I learned to love the powerful flavor of Key Lime pie that year, as well.

I often wonder why more Americans don’t drink tea. Unlike coffee, which wakes me and puts me on alert, I equate a cup of tea with relaxation, unwinding, and healing. My direct experience with its healing qualities occurred one evening when I was only six.

Playing on a swing that my father hooked up in our basement during the winter months, I miscalculated the force of my belly flop, flipped off onto the cement floor and knocked both front teeth out simultaneously. They weren’t previously loose so the impact cut into the gums creating profuse bleeding.

Back in the 1960’s there wasn’t an urgent care center on every corner and the nearest hospital emergency room was miles away. I recall my mother’s frantic call to the neighborhood pediatrician while dad attempted to stop the bleeding. On the doctor’s suggestion they brewed several bags of tea and packed it against the wound in the gum line. It was an effective treatment-the bleeding stopped, and eventually the swelling and pain decreased enough for me to fall asleep. In the morning I discovered two dollars under my pillow deposited by the benevolent tooth fairy. That was big money back then, as the T.F. only valued most teeth at a quarter apiece.

Bigelow Tea: Constant Comment

Click thumbnail to view full-size
I drink a variety of flavors from BigelowConstant Comment began the legacy of Bigelow Tea.Earl Grey is a top selling flavor.
I drink a variety of flavors from Bigelow
I drink a variety of flavors from Bigelow | Source
Constant Comment began the legacy of Bigelow Tea.
Constant Comment began the legacy of Bigelow Tea. | Source
Earl Grey is a top selling flavor.
Earl Grey is a top selling flavor. | Source

American Tea Companies: Bigelow

Although most of the tea is imported into the U.S., what many people do not realize is that there are at least two tea companies located in the United States. One of the companies is R.C. Bigelow, Inc., of Fairfield, Connecticut, or as many refer to it as, Bigelow Tea. The other is Celestial Seasonings, located in Boulder, Colorado.

Bigelow Tea, however, not only owns an American tea company in the northeastern part of the country, but they also own a southern plantation, called: The Charleston Plantation, which grows and processes another brand of tea. It is the only tea plantation and working tea farm in the United States; the brand of tea is appropriately named, American Classic Tea.

Ruth Campbell Bigelow formed the R.C. Bigelow Tea Co. in 1945 and it has remained a family owned business. After losing her job during the Depression she began experimenting with an old colonial tea recipe and created a specialty tea product. She blended black tea, orange rind and spices to come up with the popular blend of tea called: Constant Comment. Then, she filled tins with it and sold it to markets and out of her station wagon.

Today, Bigelow Tea Co. employs 350 people and grossed 120 million dollars in sales recently. It leads the nation in specialty tea sales over Lipton and Celestial Seasonings and has over 50 varieties. David C. Bigelow, Ruth’s son, and his wife and daughters now run the business. Through the years they have modernized consumer needs adding green tea to their list of choices and creating an atmosphere of sustainability within the company.

The Charleston Tea Plantaion

On Waldmalaw Island, in Charleston, South Carolina, the Bigelow Tea Co., which is the tea that I prefer to drink, has a 127-acre plantation for the tea to grow, process, get packaged, and distributed. The manager was former co-owner William Barclay Hall, who now oversees the blending and testing of the tea. Both a factory tour, which shows the production and history of tea, and trolley plantation tour, which takes visitors through the beautiful acreage, are offered during a visit, and they easily accommodate groups and school field trips. There is also a gift shop on the premises.

Lipton originally owned the tea plantation. After twenty-five years of research the company decided to sell it. Bill Hall, a third generation tea tester, and his partner, horticulturist, Mack Fleming were Lipton’s employees. The two took over the plantation from 1987 through 2003 at which time the partnership broke-up and profits dwindled. When the land went up for auction, Bigelow Tea Co. bought it for 1.28 million dollars and kept Bill Hall on as manager of tea testing.

Visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation

Harvest: If you visit the Charleston Tea Plantation the Camellia sinensis harvest begins in May and by summer it is in full swing, wrapping up between September and October. In winter the plants are dormant.

Hours: The Charleston Plantation is open seven days a week, with the exception of holidays. Monday through Saturday they open at 10 a.m. and close at 4:00 pm. On Sunday they open at noon and close at 4:00 pm.

Cost: Adults and children aged 12 and older is $10; children under 12 years old-$5.00

Poll Time:

After reading this hub are you interested in either Bigelow Tea or visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation

See results

The American Classic Tea Plantation

Wadmalaw Island, Charleston, South Carolina:
Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487, USA

get directions

American Classic Tea Plantation

Charleston, South Carolina:
Charleston, SC, USA

get directions

The tea I choose to use:

5 stars for Bigelow tea

Why I choose Bigelow for my tea:

Prior to researching information for this hub I was not aware of its history. I just know that I enjoy the Bigelow brand of tea over others. That aside, there are other reasons why I choose Bigelow:

1. Flavor: I love the flavor and it’s the main reason I buy Bigelow. No matter what flavor I choose-black tea or green, herb or chai, it always has a pleasant taste.

2. Variety: There are over 50 flavors in teabags or loose leaves.

3. Price: It is reasonably priced at about $3.00 per box of 20 bags. This is comparable to other tea on the supermarket shelf.

4. U.S. Product: It’s exciting to actually have a tea company available in the United States. I feel I promote its survival by buying their product.

Because of these four important points, as well as what the company is giving back to the community and its eco friendly consciousness, I rate Bigelow Tea a 5 star rating.

Some of the many tea varieties:

Earl Grey
Green Mint
Cranberry Hibiscus
Caramel Chai
Constant Comment
Green w/blueberry & acai
Cozy Chamomile
Vanilla Chai
Lemon Lift
Jasmine Green
Chocolate Chai
White Chocolate Obsession
Green with Peach
Lemon Ginger
Spiced Chai
Green with Mango
Ginger Snappish
Green Chai


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    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Kelly-I hope you have a chance to visit S.C. and the plantation. I've got it on my bucket list. :) Glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for the vote.

    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 

      6 years ago from United States

      Denise Handlon,

      What a wonderful hub! I have had South Carolina on my radar and the added treat of learning about American tea is a great bonus. Very well done. I too have used tea for medicinal purposes. My Mom taught me tea bags will sooth tired eyes and lessened the redness and it works beautifully. Voted up!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Hello Vellur-thanks for stopping by to read the tea hub. I've been looking for a particular flavor today to try but will probably have to go to the website to order it. Enjoy your tea. :)

      Hi Peggy- I'm glad you enjoyed the article and hope that you, as I am hoping for myself, eventually visit the plantation. There is a set of 'tea mysteries' that take place in S.C. and the author references this plantation on occasion. :)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Receiving a dollar from the tooth fairy would have been an unheard of amount when we were kids. I think that we got a dime. Ha! I have enjoyed Bigelow teas as well as Celestial Seasonings and many others. I did not realize that Bigelow was a U.S. based company. That is enough reason to start drinking more of it! We bought a huge gift basket of teas at a charity auction. It will be some time before we need to purchase more teas. I really enjoyed reading this and would definitely be interested in visiting that plantation someday if ever in that part of the country. Up+ votes and adding this to my Do You Know This? board on Pinterest.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub about the Bigelow tea, interesting and informative. I love to drink tea, I will look up this brand.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Sunshine625...another tea lover, how wonderful. I'm hoping to actually visit the plantation in the spring. :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      This hub is my cuppa tea! Black, green, white...I love them all, but minus the flavorings. Just straight up for me. Bigelow is one of my favorite brands :)

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Pamela99 Thanks for reading this. Like you, I drink tea anytime...mostly in cooler months.

      Hi Crystal, Lucky you for your visit to the plantation. I'm really hoping to get there next May. :) Thanks for reading.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      DDE Thanks for reading. I haven't visited here yet, but I would love to do this. :)

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      I have been here and I thought it was very interesting, especially watching them dry and press the tea leaves. I love buying tea that is produced here in America.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I drink a lot of tea, particularly in the cooler weather. This was a very interesting hub, and most of the information was new for me. Very interesting hub.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Bigelow Tea and the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina hmm very good tea for me anytime. You have accomplished an excellent hub on the unique teas

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Pavlo-thanks so much for your feedback. I understand your observation. The tea industry here has actually grown in numbers, however, it's still not the #1 choice, like coffee is. thanks for the share.

      Michelle-what a happy day for you to be celebrating. :) Thanks for your lovely comments and share.

      Hi Christin-well, they didn't always own the plantation. They bought it when it went up for sale and I think it was a great move on their part. :)

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      8 years ago from Midwest

      I have tried their tea before but had no idea they ran the only tea plantation here in the US, very interesting. Their tea is quite good.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      I just had a cup of tea before coming home from New Year visiting earlier, Denise!! You are right, coffee sustains you, keeps you on alert while tea relaxes and calms. Well said, and sharing!

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      8 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Many years ago I visited USA and was surprised how little people drink tea in the States. I could find just couple of tea brands in the big food store. In Ukraine tea is not a national drink but variety of tea imported from India, China or Keniya is huge. Alas we do not tea plantations of our own. It is not hot enough for it to grow in Ukraine... Interesting hub and definitely worth to share!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Deborah-wow, you have quite a history in S.C. :) Thanks for reading, I'm like you-love tea and it soothes the body and soul. :) Merry Christmas to you.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      8 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      I Love the tea... I love it all. but if I have to choose one Chia is my favorite.. I love Charleston SC.. I went to high school in Columbia SC.. use to go to Myrtle beach for all my summers,,,

      this is a great hub..

      Merry Christmas


    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Dianna-thanks, I appreciate you swinging by and leaving your comments about that wonderful stress reducer: tea. I try to sit in the afternoon with a cup and I usually always think of my sister, since we are both tea drinkers. Who knows...maybe you'll visit the plantation. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      Denise, I caught this earlier but wanted to stop in to leave a comment on how wonderful this topic is to me. I love tea and enjoy it as a relaxation aid and also for health benefits, such as rooibus and green tea. Bigelow does have the best variety in teas.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Ruchira, thanks for sharing your info on tea. Yes, ginger would be helpful. I also know that Rose Hip tea is very high in Vitamin C and helpful for sore throats and colds. Thank you for the votes. :)

    • Ruchira profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      I am a tea drinker with milk, ginger, tea leaves and sugar. Helps during winter time ESP the ginger soothes the throat.

      I would love to visit a tea plantation though.

      Voted up as interesting hub, Denise.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Gail, Thanks for your feedback about your own tea experience. I can imagine you taking hubby down to Charleston for that tea tour, LOL I am hoping to go in the spring or early summer myself. :) Hub Hugs to you as well.

      Hi Nancy-Thanks for commenting. I have had the chamomile tea but actually have not tried the chai. I do love the vanilla hazelnut, which they no longer make I think; and also the French Vanilla. My son-in-law loved the Cherry vanilla flavor, but that one has also been discontinued. I haven't had the heart to tell him yet, haha.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I love Bigelow Tea. I am mostly a Chamomile and Chai girl.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      I became a tea drinker when my new best girlfriend introduced me to it at age 16. It was Lipton's and she served it with milk and sugar. That's still my favorite brand although now I drink it with a dash of skim milk and no sugar.

      I do like Bigelow's Earl Grey and Constant Comment and I would definitely like to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation someday.

      Loved your review and your "personal history" with drinking tea and the use of tea bags for a medical purpose.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.

      Hub Hugs,


    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Rebecca-thanks :) I can hardly wait to see it next summer.

      Hi Jaydene-thanks for your feedback. I love pausing in the afternoon with a cup of tea. It's one of the highpoints of the day. :)

    • jaydene profile image


      8 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      I also love a soothing cup of tea, there is nothing like it. Having English grandmothers I also got hooked at a young age and it was a preference over coffee. Thanks for writing another great Hub full of information and history. I find my number one brand is Tetley but i love the breakfast teas that Bigelow has. Excellent article Denise, and now I'm off for a great cup of tea :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      What a wonderful Hub on the Bigelow tea plantation! I have been there, so it really was a pleasure to learn about it more in depth!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Frank-I agree that tea makes pee, haha. I have the same problem-it has a diuretic component to it. But, I barely drink coffee and just got used to the taste this past year when I was working the midnight shift. Thanks for reading and commenting. :) Thanks for the well wishes in the contest, Frank.

      Thanks Barbara-wow, how lucky for your daughter-it sounds like a great 'family' to be a part of, according to one news report I read. I envy you that tea chest, haha. Thanks for the well wishes. :)

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      8 years ago

      My Ex Daughter-in-law works for Bigelow Tea. She actually works with the "Bigelow" Family, in Design and Reproduction for the past 20 years. I got lots of Free Tea, some great Flavors. Yes, she still sends me New Flavors to try, And I've even got a "Bigelow Tea Chest"!

      I Enjoyed reading about YOUR Tea Experience, sorry about your Front Teeth...must have left you singing, "All I want for Christmas is my 2 Front Teeth"!

      Well written Hub, Informative, as well as Educational, Denise. I too agree, this is a Winning Review! My Votes of UP & Interesting & Useful go to YOU.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      8 years ago from Shelton

      A very good Hub Denise.. I'm not a tea drinker.. you see, tea, makes me pee.. this is a winning review though cross my fingers .... for you

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hello, Vellur-if you check out their website you should be able to order some. Thanks for commenting.

      Hi Randi-I'm with you...I can hardly wait for the spring or summer season. I'm looking forward to touring there. Thanks for your great comments.

      Hi Cyndi10-thanks for reading. I'll be sure to read your article, too.

      Hi Pamela-thanks for reading-the plantation may be getting a few of us hubbers visiting next summer. :)

      Hi Ruby--Thanks for your comments, Ruby. I appreciate it.

      I can't believe you don't remember that, Danette. They kept waking me up through the night to make sure I wasn't 'choking on my blood'. Gruesome, eh? Yeah, everyone was watching Wagon Train and I did a "hi ho...Rin Tin Tin" and the rest is history. Thanks for the votes and maybe we can travel to the plantation together. :)

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      8 years ago from Illinois

      I didn't realize there was a tea plantation in the US - interesting. Also didn't know you'd busted out your two front teeth - ouch! You deserved those $2 sister. Oh, and voted up useful and interesting

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      8 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I will certainly be looking for Bigelow brand tea. I only drink green tea since learning of the health benefits. I also would like to visit the plantation. Thank you Denise..

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a very interesting hub. I love to relax with a cup of hot tea, especially in the cooler weather. I didn't know about the plantation, but I would love to visit there. Voted up.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Great article. I love tea and I have bought Bigelow before. The next time I visit Charleston I will definitely visit the plantation. I mention South Carolina as an American source of tea in my article on tea. Voted up.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      8 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Denise, this is great! I am a big tea lover/drinker. Tea is also one of our biggest comfort products. I love that you had "high tea" as a little girl. I also love the history you provided. I've never thought to visit a tea plantation before but now that you mention it.....! Up+

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      8 years ago from Dubai

      Love tea and the Bigelow tea is too good the way you have described the product. I will try this one, if I can get it here. Fifty varieties of tea - WOW and so many flavors. Great review. Voted up.


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