Summerville is famous for its iced tea, known as sweet tea in the region. This iconic beverage is not just traditional on hot days, however. This area of the country is also the birthplace of sweet tea.
Summerville’s sweet tea history began in the 1700s when tea plants were imported into the area. Nothing came of the plants until the 1800s, when Dr. Charles Shepard created the Pinehurst Tea Plantation in the region. Many at the time thought tea could not thrive in Summerville since attempts to cultivate a tea plantation in the 1700s had failed, but Dr. Shepard succeeded. To this day, the Summerville area is the only area in the country known for growing a plant usually cultivated in China.
As the tea plantation was established, it’s no surprise that residents started to make tea to enjoy when sitting outside. While around the world, tea is often a hot beverage, the folks in South Carolina serve sweet tea iced, perfect for warm weather. Today, sweet tea is the official tea of the White House, and the tea served there comes from South Carolina’s Summerville area.
If you visit Summerville, you don’t have to settle for just drinking a glass of refreshing tea. The town is also home to the sweet tea trail, which lets you trace the history and culture of this beverage.
The trail starts at Exit 199A on I-26 and winds its way through Azalea Square, where shops and restaurants feature tea foods, gadgets, recipes and more. Then, the trail makes its way through downtown Summerville, where you can see the historic buildings that were built when tea was making its mark on the region. You can also buy sweet tea-inspired products from artisans in this part of the city, such as sweet tea pies and sweet tea jellies.
The trail continues to Azalea Park and local historic homes before winding through Colonial Dorchester State Park. It ends at the Plantation District, where you can see Middleton Place, Magnolia Gardens and Drayton Hall Plantation, all of which were involved in early tea history in Summerville. You can complete the sweet tea trail yourself or get onboard a trolley for a guided tour.
When in Summerville, do not forget to see the largest iced tea in the world. Affectionately known as Mason, the world’s largest tea was recognized by the Guinness World Record on June 10, 2016. You can still see the jar used to serve up this bulky beverage. Mason holds up to 2524 gallons of sweet tea and is 15 feet tall. You can see this landmark at the Summerville Municipal Complex courtyard, at 200 S. Main St.
If you are in Summerville as a resident or visitor, be sure to try the sweet tea and check out the many businesses that are a part of the community. If you need an attorney, you can always reach out to Thurmond, Kirchner and Timbes, Attorneys at Law. Our legal team has been part of Summerville since 2005.