Special thanks to Jordan G. Hardin whose list of American tea growers on Kill Green majorly informed our research, especially when determining which tea planters actually sell finished tea to consumers.
Some tea party hosts are locavores as well, so we want to know if it’s possible to serve American-grown tea at our afternoon tea tables. The answer is: yes, you may! To help you find some U.S. tea crop, we’ve compiled a list of American tea growers that sell finished tea, either in person or online. Because tea reflects the growing conditions and processing methods particular to the region where it grows, it would be fun to offer your tea friends the experience of a taste test, comparing American teas to teas from around the world.
Wait a minute, does the U.S. even have the proper climate to grow tea? We’ve learned that tea plants are native to Southeastern Asia in countries with subtropical and tropical transitional forests. And, peeking at this world map by Meteoblue, we see that — aha! — the U.S. does indeed share similar climate zones to the birthplace of the tea plant.
Actually, according to this TeaMuse article, tea was reported to be growing wild in Western Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1863:
The American Tea Company, an association chartered by the Legislature of Pennsylvania, have [sic] employed Dr. Spencer Bonsall, a man of experience and character, to examine the American tea plant… He declares that the tea plant exists in Pennsylvania and Western Maryland beyond all doubt. ‘It grows indigenously,’ he states, ‘in the greatest luxuriance and abundance in the places that I have visited, limited, however, to those localities which afford the peculiar soil indispensable to it, as is the case in China, Assam, and Japan.’…The leaf is almost identical with some of the varieties from which the best tea is made in Assam; and Dr. Bonsall expresses his belief that tea equal to any that is brought from China could be made from this plant. [Boston Bulletin, reprinted in The New York Times]
Five years earlier, the U.S. government was studying the viability of growing tea in the United States. Here are their findings on “Supposed Tea Regions of the U.S.” as presented in a congressional agricultural report.
The tea of China, though acknowledged by most persons as a luxury, is a commodity from which the people of no country should be deprived. On the contrary, in this case, as well as in most others, it is the policy of every government to gratify the wishes of its people, and to facilitate the acquisition of this luxury by its economical importation, or, what would be far more desirable, to extend the production to its own soil.”– 1858 U.S. Agricultural Report
Finding American Tea
There’s only one way to find out if Dr. Bonsall’s claim is true: that American tea is equal to any brought from China – we need to try it! Check out the map below to see which states, from Hawai’i to New Jersey — have tea growers that produce tea. If you are so lucky as to live near an American tea producer, you could follow them on social media to find out when new batches of tea are for sale, and go pick some up. For the majority of us though, it’s Internet shopping we must go!
Buy American Tea Online
- Big Island Tea – Mountain View, Hawai’i
- Charleston Tea Garden – Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina
- Fairhope Tea Plantation – Fairhope, Alabama
- Finger Lakes Tea Company – Waterloo, New York
- Great Mississippi Tea Company – Brookhaven, Mississippi
- Leo Nani Farms – Hakalau, Hawai’i
- Light of Day Organics – Traverse City, Michigan
- Longleaf Tea Co. – Laurel, Mississippi
- Maui Tea Farm – Kula, Hawai’i
- Mauna Kea Tea – Honokaa, Hawai’i
- Minto Island Tea Company – Salem, Oregon
- Pearl River Tea at JD Farms – Poplarville, Mississippi
- Table Rock Tea Company – Pickens, South Carolina
- Tea Hawai’i & Company (Hawaiian Growers: Johnny’s Garden, Hilo Tea Garden, Volcano Tea Garden)
- Volcano Winery – Volcano, Hawai’i
Buy American Tea Locally Only
- Cloudwater Tea Farm – Kilauea, Hawai’i
- Dunaway Gardens – Newnan, Georgia
- Greenwich Tea Burners Tea – Greenwich, New Jersey
- Second Alarm Farm – Volcano, Hawai’i
Do You Have A Favorite American Tea?
If you have sampled American tea, how did you like it? We have tried a few of Charleston Tea Garden’s teas, haven’t yet found one we love. We do though appreciate that these locally grown teas are very often offered at Charleston, SC afternoon tea services (see our reviews in the South Carolina Afternoon Tea Directory). If you have a favorite American tea, or know of one we missed, please share it with us! Happy sipping!