When one thinks of a known Tea Origin, India and China typically come to mind. Camellia Sinensis, however, has been grown in the Americas since the 18th Century, when the French botanist, André Michaux started a tea garden in South Carolina with cuttings taken from a tea shipment in 1799 (Walcott, 2012).
In North America, tea cultivation has seen an expansion of interest among growers which culminated in the founding of the US League of Tea Growers in 2013 to advocate on behalf of the industry. Indeed, the Charleston Tea Plantation (CTP), which traces its roots back to a Lipton initiative in the 1960s is a popular tourist destination that showcases working tea production using mechanization for harvesting.
South Carolina is not the only site of production tea gardens: tea is grown in the American North West as well; Hawaii has working tea gardens owning of course to optimal soil and climate conditions.
Canada has also had interest in tea garden development. On Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley, Tea Farm has been cultivating tea since 2010. Though full production is still to come for the tea garden, media interest and visitors to the site have sparked curiosity in tea’s potential in Canada.
The future for North America as a viable tea origin is a work in progress. High labour costs are one obvious factor affecting the development. Potential yield from land under tea is another factor. Though, as CTP has shown, perhaps when combined with mechanization for harvesting, tea gardens can develop if they are viewed through the lens of hospitality and tourism. Indeed, as North America’s Farm to Table movement continues to gain speed, the desire to see where the food we eat and drink comes from and how it is produced may stimulate tea garden development both in Canada and south of the border. Only time will tell.
Walcott, S. M. (2012.). Geographical Record: Brewing a New American Tea Industry. The Geographical Review, 102(3), 350–363.