Photo by Milton Morris
Reajean Beattie raided the family cookbook for recipes when she began serving lunch at her elegant tea room on the grounds of Hopsewee Plantation.
When Raejean Beattie and her husband, Frank, bought Hopsewee Plantation near Georgetown, they never thought about serving food.
Their goal was to live in the pre-Revolutionary War house and allow tours during the day. After all, the former rice plantation was the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence. But when the tourist traffic got to be a bit much, they built a small tea room to allow themselves a place to get away during the day.
It turned into something more when the ladies of the Red Hat Society asked if the couple would host a special tea at Hopsewee. It was such a success that the Beatties began serving tea, scones and small sandwiches on a regular basis. A few years later, they expanded the tea room, added a full kitchen, and introduced a lunch menu featuring family recipes for shrimp and grits, Cajun gumbo, and the house specialty—Gin-Gin’s chicken and wild rice soup.
“Gin-Gin Soup is my mother’s recipe,” Raejean Beattie says. “My children call their grandmother Gin-Gin and would always say, ‘Let’s have Gin-Gin soup.’”
A former assistant professor of engineering at USC-Aiken, Beattie has no professional culinary training but has spent years experimenting with recipes and creating new dishes of her own.
“I’ve always enjoyed entertaining and fixing good food, looking up recipes and combining recipes,” she says. “If I try something somewhere that I like, I don’t ask for the recipe. I might say this looks like it has this or that in it. And I think of other flavors to add.”
As the menu has grown, so has the Tea Room’s reputation. Years ago, visitors used to come to Hopsewee simply to tour the home. Now some come just to eat. Reservations are recommended, as the Tea Room seats 56 people, and on some days it fills up quickly with busloads of tourists from Myrtle Beach.
While casual dress is welcome and even expected, guests will dine in elegance with classic lace linens, fine china and polished silverware. Woodframed, full-length windows on three sides of the tea room allow an open view of the Hopsewee grounds, as well as the nearby plantation home.
On a typical day, guests will find Beattie overseeing the lunch rush, always making time to visit with customers.
“They’re here because they love history, they love the idea of what we’re doing, and they’re pleased with the whole experience, from the tour, to the beauty of the place, to the food,” she says. “I’m very pleased with all of that.”
Gin-Gin’s chicken and wild rice soup
2 tablespoons oil
1 box wild rice mix
1 small onion, diced
2 small ribs celery, diced
2 small carrots, diced
1 teaspoon pepper
4 medium chicken breasts, diced
32 ounces chicken stock
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
In a large pot, sweat vegetables in oil. Add chicken and sear on the outside. Season with pepper. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, then add rice and seasoning. Let simmer 15–20 minutes, until rice is cooked. Add cream of mushroom soup and milk. Reheat without boiling.
“This is the way my mother fixed it,” says Raejean Beattie. “At Hopsewee, we cook button mushrooms with the vegetables and make a roux with butter, flour and heavy cream instead of cream of mushroom soup and milk.”
Hopsewee Plantation Tea Room
494 Hopsewee Road, Georgetown | (843) 546-789 | hopsewee.com
Hours: The Tea Room is open for lunch Tuesday–Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
Tours of the home are held on the hour Tuesday–Friday beginning at 10 a.m., with the last tour starting at 3 p.m. On Saturdays, tours begin at 11 a.m. During December and January, tours are offered by appointment only.