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Travel the Ports of Teadom

by Diana Rosen

Summertime for most tea lovers means thirst-quenching iced tea, fresh berries for garnish and the time to catch up on family and friends during vacations here and abroad. Without further ado, we present some quixotic and perfectly proper ways to spend your summer vacation in various ports of "teadom."

For the truly adventurous, consider a trip to a tea plantation when visiting China, Kenya, India or Sri Lanka. Here the sweet fragrance of freshly-plucked tea leaves, the overwhelming "green-ness" of the thousands of tea bushes will overwhelm all your senses. It is a humble experience, to be sure, to realize that thousands of women the world over (except in Kenya) spend hours daily plucking the tender leaves at the top of every bush that is the first step along the route to your pleasurable cup.

Savoring, for example, Darjeeling in India, Dragonwell in China, Ti Kuan Yin in Taiwan or true Ceylon in Sri Lanka, each in the area in which it's grown, is an intoxicating experience. You will never drink better tea than that which you can enjoy at the time of harvest in the very place in which it is grown.

If it's an American tea adventure you're seeking, visit the only tea plantation in the US, which is run by the best (and, we must admit, the only) tea horticulturist -- American Classic Tea Plantation and Mack Fleming. Mack, along with William Hall, a third-generation English tea taster, have taken the old Lipton tea station off the coast of South Carolina and developed it into one of the most innovative tea growing and harvesting experiments anywhere.

Whether you visit the White House or some of our country's best restaurants, you can enjoy the crisp, clean flavor of what must surely be the freshest tea available in America. The duo also produces a lovely tea jelly that's scrumptious on toast.

Free walking tours of the plantation, with free iced tea of course, are offered on certain Saturdays beginning at 10 a.m. with final tour at 1:30 p.m. Call ahead for this year's dates. No reservations necessary. If it rains, the tour is canceled. Wheelchair accessible. American Classic Tea, 6617 Maybank Hwy., Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina. For more information, or a catalog about their teas and tea gifts, call (803) 559-0383.

For most tea travelers, it is the anecdotal charm of British teas that enchants. When in London, visit the Bramah Tea & Coffee Museum, founded by veteran tea broker Edward Bramah, whose fabulous collection of teapots and tea paraphernalia offers a glimpse of the entire history of teapot making.

The hundreds of teapots, lovingly catalogued in his famous book, Novelty Teapots, are a collector's heaven: Majolica, figuratives that show whimsy in every era, the sedate and elegant and the corny are all here as is the world's largest teapot, some 78 inches in circumference and 32 inches in height. It would need four pounds of tea to fulfill its capacity of 800 cups. Next time you feel you have an abundance of tea, the concept may take on a completely new meaning!

Bramah Tea & Coffee Museum, The Clove Building, Maguire Street, London 011-33-171-378-0222. Tearoom for tea; teas and tea accessories sold, of course. The Bramah classic flowery orange pekoe is one of the most delightful we have had recently.

Diana Rosen is a freelance writer  for eZines, web site copy, and print magazine articles on food, beverage, and other lifestyle topics. The veteran journalist is also the author of 10 nonfiction books and the co-author of three others. For more information, visit write to her at dianalrosen@aol.com.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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