MYRTLE BEACH -- Tea is Southern wine.
Devout drinkers of tea will tell you as much.
"When I drink coffee, it gets me revved up and all of my systems are on go," said Terry Smith, who drinks tea daily. "When I drink tea, all of my systems are on relax. Tea is soothing."
Mellow as wine and comforting as warm sunshine, tea is an exclamation point in the day of folks fond of unwinding and enjoying the leisurely activities while sipping or gulping.
"I drink cold tea -- sweet," said Tammy Todd, a Loris resident who cannot imagine life without tea. "I've got to have it sweet. It is just good that way. It's the way I like it. I drink tea several times a day. I drink a lot of tea. I stay away from Pepsi, but I stay close to tea."
Tea was discovered in 2737 B.C. by Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung, according to the Tea Association of the USA.
The story goes that one day, tea leaves accidentally blew into the emperor's pot of boiling water.
Of course, tea is not happenstance today. People are intentional about every sip.
Todd drinks it at work, home and play. At her job at Mount Vernon Grocery on S.C. 31 in Loris, she said, customers drink gallons of tea six days a week.
"We sell a right good bit of tea," Todd said. "Most people get tea instead of sodas. You are supposed to get one refill, but we let the customers slide and get more."
Americans drank more than 55 billion servings of tea last year, or more than 2.5 billion gallons, according to the Tea Association. About 85 percent of that is iced.
Turkey Hill, the nation's No. 1 manufacturer of refrigerated iced tea, announced recently that it will be in Kroger and Bi-Lo stores throughout the South, including stores on the Grand Strand.
Turkey Hill, which produces 24 types of tea, sold 36 million gallons of tea last year.
Folks in America, though, are not the only ones taken by tea.
"Tea is an universal drink," said Melissa Mattilio, consumer marketing manager for Turkey Hill. "It goes across countries and cultures."
Tea does have power like that.
"Tea stimulates conversation," said Anna Arlington, an owner of the Calabash Garden Tea Room in Calabash, N.C. "I always drink tea. It is very comforting to be sitting in front of a pot of tea."
At the Calabash Garden Tea Room, women wearing flowing dresses come through the doors to munch on scones and mini-sandwiches wrapped in satin ribbons and drink an eclectic mix of 26 different teas.
Ragamuffin is a black tea with apricot and orange essence.
Paris, also a fruity-flavored black tea, has bergamot and vanilla.
At Jasmine Dreams in Surfside Beach, Isha Long sells an array of teas, including Summer Rain, a popular white tea with a light, refreshing flavor.
Long said drinking tea is similar to drinking wine.
"Tea, as is wine, can be fruity, bold, and crisp," Long said. "Tea is also paired with food, as people pair wine with their meals."
Tea, like wine, is also varied in flavors and colors and is reported to have health benefits.
Todd, a die-hard Lipton fan, said tea is simply satisfying.
"Tea is a pleasure to drink," Todd said. "When I come home, I like to get a cold glass of iced tea, sit on the front porch, watch my neighbors pass by and enjoy nature."