On Thursday, we started the morning off with something that I thought was really cool that I had no idea that I would enjoy as much as I did. We went to the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is an active tea farm and is also the only tea that you can get that’s grown in America.
First, they start you off with unlimited tea to drink from their gift shop, so you can try out almost every flavor of iced or hot tea they make. Then there’s a tour of the facility that processes the tea after it’s been harvested. It goes through a drying process and then there’s a crucial part that changed how I look at tea FOREVER. So I knew that you have different types of tea—you’ve got your white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, and pu-erh tea. And what I thought was that those were all different types of teas made in certain ways to get those classifications. But it turns out that they’re all made from the same tea leaf, but they’re just dried, oxidized, and baked for a specific amount of time to make them into each type of tea. White tea goes through the process in the least amount of time, hence it’s lighter, more delicate flavor, then green for longer, then oolong for longer, then black for the longer, then pu-erh for the longest. Different places can infuse all of these varieties with different flavors and whatnot, but at it’s core those are the only differences!
After the tour of the facility, they take you out on a tour of the fields where the tea is grown. Tea only flourishes in very specific conditions, which is why you don’t see tea plantations elsewhere in the country, but it turns out that Charleston fits the bill perfectly for tea growing. The bushes they have there will produce year after year and they’ve been expanding the plantation and cloning the bushes in their greenhouse so that their tea always has a consistent taste. It was a very informative tour of the grounds and the one piece of trivia that stuck out to me the most on the tour was that in America, about 80% of tea served is iced tea, but in the South that number jumps up to 99%!
Armed with all of this new tea knowledge and free tea to drink, they bring you back into the gift shop and strangely enough, I think most people find themselves a lot more enthusiastic about tea! For me, I think it was a combination of my newfound understanding of the different types of tea and a sense of patriotism that it’s the only tea grown in America, but we ended up buying an inordinate amount of tea there! It ended up being a really cool place to visit and another place I’d highly recommend checking out if you’re in the area!
Next, we headed to Sullivan’s Island. There are lots of restaurants and some beaches there and we all split up to explore on our own. Kirsten and I checked out Fort Moultrie, which was originally used for seacoast defense, so there were lots of citadels with cannons and huge guns along the edge of the fort. It was a lot more instrumental in the Revolutionary and Civil War days, but then subsequently saw a lot less action, naturally. Inside the museum there, they played a short film about the history of Fort Moultrie—the format was a single character actor playing different roles of people in Fort Moultrie during various periods of American history. One of the choice ways that they tried to tie in Fort Moultrie to World War II was the story of a young officer who was stationed at Fort Moultrie, not really doing much. “Dammit Johnny, ya big goof! Why’d you have to go and try to be like your big brother? It should’ve been me at Pearl Harbor that day!!!” Who knew of the drama behind the walls of Fort Moultrie…
After that, we went and got a late lunch at the Charleston Fish House, which serves fresh seafood brought in by all of the boats docking right by Sullivan’s Island, so all of it was fresh and delicious. We sat at a table that had a pretty striking view of the USS Yorktown outside.
With a view like that, we were compelled to go take a tour after we finished eating. When you take a tour, there are actually three places to check out, including the USS Yorktown carrier, a destroyer, and a submarine as well. The carrier was humongous—it made me think about how my dad has told me stories about what being on a carrier is like. They’re like floating cities—they had everything you’d need while being out on the water for months! Seeing the things like the doctor’s and dentist’s offices, food storage/kitchen areas, laundry areas, it gave me an appreciation for how much is really crammed into these giant ships! They also had a ton of different aircraft from different eras of US history on display, which was very cool to see in their native habitat. =P
Then on the flip side of that, touring the submarine gave me a newfound appreciation for how little space you get in those things! I’ve always heard how cramped they are, but I never would’ve imagined how small it actually is in there!
It was really cool to end the day with a little bit of Navy-pride by touring the carrier and the submarine! Maybe we’ll have to go again some day with my family—I’m sure it’d be a blast from the past for my dad (even if it’s a bit of an older carrier compared to the ones he was on)!