The only tea grown in America is found about 20 miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island at the Charleston Tea Plantation, now owned by Bigelow. Most southerners drink sweet tea by the gallon. When properly made, it's truly delicious and absolutely thirst-quenching. For an authentic flavor, use Charleston tea or at least an orange pekoe tea. Because tea does not improve with age, Charleston's is the freshest on the market. Orange pekoe tea is made with only the top two newest leaves on the bush, which is a member of the camellia genus.
Always start with clean, nonreactive containers and cold water. Use one bag or one teaspoon of loose tea per glass. Pour boiling water over the tea and allow it to steep, covered, for 5 minutes, or until the tea is the desired strength. Most southerners put a little sugar in their tea while it is steeping, but you can sweeten it to taste afterward as well. Serve with lemon wedges and, if desired, freshly picked mint. Pour over ice in large glasses.