Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Diet Debacle

It's the ultimate question on every tea-drinker's mind, even if they don't want to admit it. Are the rumors true? Is this tea helping me lose weight?

No! say the naysayers, insistent that there is no easy diet solution, and there is no way that anything commonly available could hold such an important property.

Yes! cry out the believers, ready and willing to buy into (literally) whatever hope they have left for shedding those last five, ten, or hundred and fifty pounds.

I'm no scientist, and I've done no careful studies, but since I've stopped drinking tea regularly in the past five weeks (It's hot down here in the Bible Belt in August!) I've gained five to ten pounds! Whatever weight loss properties tea does or does not have, I'm almost certain that the hydration was good for me, and the fact that I had been replacing sweet, salty, and fatty snacks with a zero-calorie treat kept me from gaining.

Exercise helps. A healthy attitude towards food helps. Tea is no miracle formula, but if you stake out a middle position somewhere between the naysayers and the believers you're likely to end up in a darned good place.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that last part is true for most things in life. What do you think?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rows Upon Rows

The entrance to the Charleston Tea Gardens. The plants are beautiful, and they look healthy in spite of the adverse soil and weather conditions. I learned from the helpful staff that these plants were brought over from China and India, and that they are the few remaining plants which survived of the hundreds of thousands originally brought to be planted in the new world. They expect 6-8 flushes by this time of year, and the plants are just now beginning to grow their fourth flush. South Carolina is 7 inches short on rain for the growing season thus far. A flush is the new growth on a tea plant, and flushes are marked by when and where the last cutting took place.
There are over 300 varieties of tea plant on this plantation, according to the staff, though no one could tell me what they were. Their entire cutting process is mechanized, which means that they only employ 20 workers at the plantation, and only three field workers. Most of those 20 employees work in the gift shop. I'll give you more on the processing of tea tomorrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The One and Only

The blogging hiatus is over, as is the extended vacation which was at its root.

But my vacation wasn't all fun and games. Just last week I went on a reconnaissance mission to the Charleston Tea Gardens on Wadmalaw Island SC. It is the only tea plantation in the entirety of North America. Why, you ask? Well, because the entirety of North America is entirely unfit for tea growth, except the "lowcountry" in South Carolina, or so the Bigelow corporation, which owns the entire 300 acre plantation, would have you believe.

I had my doubts.

The plantation is a fun visit. They have a free tour of the factory with video explanations and everything, a cute little gift shop with some surprisingly reasonably-priced merchandise, and "trolley tours" throughout the day for $10 a person which each have different focuses. I wasn't about to sit on a trolley for an hour and a half in a heat wave in the highest humidity area in the country (which is why they can grow tea there...), but I did go on the factory tour, which was interesting and informative.

I'll fill in more details as I upload and edit my pictures from the trip, but overall I'd say it was well worth the time and gas it took to get there.

And as for my doubts? They only had iced tea available to try, and it sucked my mouth dry from the tannins, but the flavor was unobtrusive. Their "First Flush" was the only one sold from there that wasn't a blend, and it smelled good, if a little earthy and stiff, but they won't sell the tea itself unless you pay $25 total for its packaging, which leaves you paying $16.50 per ounce! I'm still enjoying my dollar an ounce teas from Angelina's, so I didn't go for it. Since they have to pay American wages, it makes sense that it would cost a bit more, but I'm sure a large percentage is going to "The Man" (i.e., R.C. Bigelow, Inc.) and for tea that was grown outside of ideal conditions ... I'm not going to shell out those bucks, but to each his own.