The Right Blend: Discovering Liberty County’s Tea History and the Heritage That Remains Part of the Evolving Culture
Here in Liberty County, the soil is perfect for tea and if it hadn’t been for a financial deal that fell through to South Carolina, Liberty County would have been producing tea for the states in the 1800s.
It all goes back to Riceboro and the first tea plants introduced there by William Jones and his daughter, Rosa Jones Screven. A Scottish venture capitalist named John Jackson visited Liberty County to inspect the tea crop. The specimens he sent to the Department of Agriculture were deemed equal the best raised in India or China.
A $30,000 appropriation to establish a government sponsored tea project in Liberty County was secured but the political tides turned the project went to South Carolina. Jackson had no choice but to follow the money and go to Summerville, South Carolina to tend to the crops.
After a year of cultivation, he was convinced South Carolina’s soil was wrong and Liberty County was the best choice to grow a perfect tea crop. Unfortunately, since the tea didn’t take in South Carolina, the government funding was relinquished and Jackson had to abandon his tea aspirations.
He did move back to Liberty County and became a resident until his death. He tried to secure financial backing for tea cultivation in the area but was unsuccessful. Remains of the old tea fields near Riceboro could still be found as late as 1900. Local residents picked the leaves when they were tender, dried them in the sun and brewed their own special blend of Liberty County tea.
The tea plants cultivated by Jackson are no longer in existence in Liberty County but the soil in these parts holds the memory of his dream. The blended culture and history of our lovely Liberty County awaits discovery.