Bigelow Tea and the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina
The Comfort of Tea
Bigelow tea sampler
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 CommentClick thumbnail to view full-size
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 Story of Bigelow Tea
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
After reading this hub are you interested in either Bigelow Tea or visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation
The American Classic Tea Plantation
The tea I choose to use:
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:
Green w/blueberry & acai
White Chocolate Obsession
Green with Peach
Green with Mango