2017-12-08 / Society

It’s all about tea

Contributed by Gloria Douglass


Seated (l-r) Nancy McCarter, Karen Galloway, and Sheri Kimball. Standing (l-r) Melanie Knight, Alice Tubley, Elaine Kennerly, Lynda Smith, Cheryl Martino, Quida Ott, and Doris Kahn. Seated (l-r) Nancy McCarter, Karen Galloway, and Sheri Kimball. Standing (l-r) Melanie Knight, Alice Tubley, Elaine Kennerly, Lynda Smith, Cheryl Martino, Quida Ott, and Doris Kahn. At the Garden Club Counci l of Greater Columbia’s September meeting, Melanie Knight, known these days as “the Tea Lady,” presented an interesting, informative, and sometimes humorous program about tea. Knight covered the history of tea that was informative and surprising in some respects.

Tea was thought to be brought to England in 1652 and became a British national obsession during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Although everyone is aware of the Boston “tea party” and its aftermath, there was also a “party” held in our own state. Charleston was the second city after Boston to receive a tea shipment where it sat for three weeks. It was secretly unloaded by Lt. Governor William Bull and taken to the Old Exchange Building and eventually sold to help pay for the war.

Samuel Adams scolded S. C. for the unloading, even though no tax was paid. SC was the only colony where tea was unloaded during this time.

In the mid 18th century, tea drinking became high fashion and so did the way in which it was served. Hostesses demanded matching tea sets, sugar bowls, tongs, tea caddies, creamers, plates, tea pedestals, and related tea linens.

One writer commented that maintaining a fashionable tea table was “more expensive than providing for two children and a nurse!”

Women suffragists owned many tea rooms and used them to hold meetings. In 1848, five key members of the America’s Woman Suffrage Movement, including Lucret ia Mot t and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, met for tea to plan what eventually became the Seneca Falls Convention.

Knight was able to debunk some of the stereotypes that come to many minds of “little ole ladies with gloves.” No, your pinky finger does not need to be extended when partaking. In fact, i t is considered to be improper. But remember, when stirring, your spoon should be placed at 6:00 and then “fold” the tea back and forth to 12:00.

There are numerous tea rooms in South Carolina where you can partake in the true “tea experience.” Some of them are, Camellia Tea Party, Edgefield; Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway; McCray House Tea room in West McCormick; Cornwal l is House Tea Company, Winnsboro; Top Hat Special Teas, Florence; Silverspoon Tea Room, Newberry; and the Market Tea Room in the State Farmers Market, W. Columbia.

And South Carolina has its own tea plantation. In the 1950s, the Lipton Company took tea cuttings from plants and created a tea plantation on Wadmalaw Island, S.C.

The Charleston Tea Plantation is currently affiliated with Bigelow and is open for tours.

After describing the various teas, attendees took part in a tea tasting and refreshments. It was hard to pick a favorite from the six different flavors served by Knight and her assistant.

Knight is available for programs, tea tastings and tea parties.

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