Meet Mason in Flower Town
A name like Summerville elicits mental images of barbecues and sweet corn, swimming pools and sunscreen; of long, slow evenings carefully crafting the perfect s’more, surrounded by family. The reality of this Lowcountry town just under 26 miles northwest of Charleston, however, is even better than the name would suggest—and its appeal isn’t just limited to the summertime.
The town originated from Colonial Dorchester, which was established in 1697 by Puritan families. A lot has changed since then, but Summerville remains a wonderful location for families to both live in or visit, full of fun, local activities, food and drinks. As a day-trip destination, Summerville provides something for everyone, from the history buff to the foodie to the botanist.
Perhaps the town’s greatest claim to fame is its relation to sweet tea, the iconic draught of the South. The oldest known recipe for the Southern drink, dating back to 1890, was connected to Summerville. However, tea has been prevalent in the community since the late 18th century, when it was brought to the area and grown on various tea plantations, including the Pinehurst Tea Plantation owned by Dr. Charles Shepard. His plants became the basis for the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is arguably the largest tea grower in the United States today.
Sweet tea continues to play a role in Summerville: Just last year on National Iced Tea Day (June 10), the town set the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Iced Tea with a 2,524-gallon drink that was given the name “Mason.” You can visit Mason while on the Sweet Tea Trail, a route that winds through the historic and modern areas of Summerville. If historic walks are of interest, also make sure to check out Summerville-Dorchester Museum and request one of their two guided educational walks.
Summerville’s other nickname besides “The Birthplace of Sweet Tea” is the “Flower Town in the Pines.” Walking through Azalea Park, found along South Main Street, it becomes clear that this name is just as accurate. Soft pink camellias and magenta and white azaleas line the walking paths and crowd around charming white-fence bridges throughout the park, while verdant, sturdy pine trees tower above the glistening ponds and bronze statues.
Only an eight-minute walk up the street from Azalea Park is the Summerville Farmers’ Market, open Saturday mornings and boasting a wide variety of local vendors and artisans. Strolling through the booths, you can expect to see tables overflowing with farm-fresh vegetables and eggs, as well as baked goods, homemade pasta and artists selling their candles, soap, wood creations and more. While not the largest farmers’ market in the Lowcountry, the charm and heart found in Summerville’s market is palpable. Neighbors greet each other over steaming cups of coffee, live music drifts over the tents and local farmers return again and again, Saturday after Saturday, year after year. And at the end of the market each week, leftover food is donated to Fields to Families, a nonprofit dedicated to collecting and delivering fresh, healthy food to people who don’t have the ability to purchase it for themselves, cutting down on food waste in the process.
After spending the morning outside, especially as the crisp air of fall begins to descend on the Lowcountry, a stop at a local coffee shop is in order. Coastal Coffee Roasters serves locally roasted, organic coffee, as well as providing community events like yoga classes, swing dancing and live bands. Stop at their trendy, brick-front shop, or find them at the farmers’ market. For another option, Cuppa Manna is a locally owned cafe with specialty tea and coffee, including some local options, baked goods and open mic nights on Tuesday evenings.
For adults, Summerville also boasts choice destinations for alcoholic beverages. Accent on Wine & More is a little wine shop and charcuterie on Main Street that also sells cheese, craft beer and lavish desserts. The owner, Stephan Bates, is a sommelier from France, and his expertise in all things wine is evident in his shop. Oak Road Brewery is Summerville’s only brewery, and their local craft beers are on tap year-round. They focus on being local, celebrating what Summerville has to offer and providing a sense of community where both locals and visitors can come, relax and chat over a beer or two. While the beer is for the adults, kids and dogs are welcome and catered to with games and treats. Finally, the Summerville pub, Homegrown Brewhouse, supports local to the point that they only serve beers brewed in South Carolina; they have 40 taps of beer from places like Revelry Brewing Co., Two Blokes Brewing, Low Tide Brewing and more.
One thing is certain: after spending a day in Summerville, you’ll be both happy and quenched.