Tea first came to American colonies in the 1700s and the first tea plantations were established in Summerville near what is now the location of Middleton Plantation.
Tea quickly grew in popularity in the Americas and quickly became a part of the culture of the country, popular because it was not limited to a specific region, people or class.
As the popularity of the drink increased modifications were made. In the 1870s iced tea began to appear in recipes throughout the South, the first written recipe appeared in Housekeeping in Old Virginia by Marion Cabell Tyree first published in 1877.
The next milestone is thought to be in 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair when Richard Blechynden introduced sweet tea to the world.
However if you ask the residents of Summerville sweet tea already existed and had been around for more than a decade. A receipt from 1890 shows 600 pounds of sugar and tea purchased for a soldier’s reunion.
This discovery led to Summerville christening itself the “Birthplace of Sweet Tea.” The town made this official by applying for the trademark in 2011. Summerville has embraced its identity as the “Birthplace of Sweet Tea” ever since it established a Sweet Tea Festival, which is now in its eighth year and the construction of the largest mason jar of sweet tea, affectionately named “Mason.”
The discovery of tea’s birthplace in Summerville has become a point of pride for many, including Teresa Burditte-Sims, who admits that she did not think much of the discovery at the time.
“I love to be able to say that I’m from Summerville,” Teresa Burditte-Sims said.
Burditte-Sims, who works at the Summerville-Dorchester Museum, said that the city is growing very rapidly and it is good to hold on to the city’s history and culture.
George McDaniel also said that the discovery is great for the town. He said that Summerville, like other small towns, is seeking to find its identity and separate itself from other places.
McDaniel also said that Summerville’s claim as the “Birthplace of Sweet Tea” is something people can relate to and it is something identifiable. He also said that this creates a lot of tourism for the town.
He said the town now has something distinct in its history that it can be proud of and is overwhelmingly positive.
“It adds to the flavor of Summerville,” McDaniel said.