The Right Blend: History of Tea
Southerners grow up drinking sweet tea. The ability of the ice-cold beverage to quench their thirst, especially on those sticky hot summer days cannot be beaten! Ask any local what the best type of tea is and they will tell you that it is a strong blend with just the right amount of sugar, served over ice. We’re passionate about tea in the South.
Here in Liberty County, the soil is perfect for tea and if it hadn’t been for a financial deal that fell through Liberty County would have continued producing tea for the states well into the 1800s and beyond.
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 to 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 and 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 has 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 history of Liberty County dates back long before tea plants were sowed in the dark, rich soil. Historical and cultural sites abound in this area and tell the story of a blended heritage forged from the enslaved Gullah Geechee people to Revolutionary War heroes to Civil Rights leaders and into the modern era.
The intriguing history of tea in Liberty County is just a fragment of the discoveries to be made here. We’re bringing tea back to Liberty County to carry on the hopes of John Jackson. We’re searching to find a tea that’s just right to celebrate the history of the area and the devotion southerners have to their house wine.
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 await discovery.
In the near future, if you visit us in Liberty County, chances are we’ll offer you our own blend of tea, specially selected to capture the flavor of local culture. The tea blend chosen by our local residents will be something you can take home with you, as a palatable souvenir of your trip. We hope you will take the history of this great county with you as well.