Meet the Teamakers – Kim H.

Photo @TTalbott

We have another Kim in the office. Introducing our newest customer accounts person extraordinaire. Give her a call and find out how pleasant, how professional and how much she enjoys helping you select your next favorite tea. She may be sipping a freshly brewed cup of Lord Bergamot with milk, but you’ll only hear her smile.

Q: What was your happiest time drinking tea?

A: Birthday tea with my mom.

Q: Which famous figure in history would you most like to have tea with?

A:  Georgia O’Keefe and Frida Kahlo.


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Meet the Teamakers – Donovan

donovanPhoto © Tiffany Talbott


Our newest Teamaker is busy preparing flights of tea for visitors to the Tasting Room. He boasts a swell collection of vintage sweaters and is the only guy who wears a tie around here. He’s warm-hearted, has a great smile, and loves to talk tea. Welcome, Donovan!


Q: What was your happiest time drinking tea?

A: Sipping Jasmine tea around a camp bonfire on the coast with some of my dearest friends.

Q: Which famous figure in history would you most like to have tea with?

A:  Teddy Roosevelt, Buster Keaton, Nikola Tesla, C.S. Lewis.


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Meet the Teamakers – Jayna

Jayna Martin PortraitPhoto © Joy Castiglione

Disguised as Claire Kent, Jayna is a wiz with spreadsheets, columns and numbers; all a decoy to her superior skills with pie crusts and baking utensils. It’s possible she keeps a cape in her desk, but we’re still not sure.

Q: What was your happiest time drinking tea?

A: Christmas mornings with my grandmother, mother, and sisters while we waited for the rest of the family to wake up.

Q: Which famous figure in history would you most like to have tea with?

A:  Da Vinci, Marie Curie.


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Meet the Teamakers — Michaela



The Teamakers have a dedicated fashionista among us. Michaela is the newest member of the “ladies loft” where a flurry of phones, customer service, special requests, and the logistics of all your tea shipments originate. She has jumped into our world of tea with the grace and style of a princesse de mode.

Q: What was your happiest time drinking tea.

A: As soon as I wake up!

Q: Which famous figure in history would you most like to have tea with?

A: Zooey Deschanel


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Gift Wrapping Tips and Ideas

Kim, our senior designista does the best gift wrapping. Whether it is a gift note or a birthday present, you never want to open the package and ruin the look. For this holiday, Kim has a few west-coast wrap tips for you.


When packing a box for shipping, start with a large piece of tissue paper in the bottom. A lot of packaging stores will sell fine wood shavings which look great in the box and help protect your tea container from damage. Tissue paper acts as both a container for the wood shavings for easy removal as well as a touch of festivity and elegance to “dress up” the first glimpse inside the package. This method can also be used for gift boxes that won’t be shipped to create a great first impression at holiday gatherings.


Folding the edge of a ribbon lengthwise before cutting it will give a nice flared edge. For a more rustic look, sisal twine can be put to good use. Twines can be an affordable yet crafty alternative to ribbon bows for a more casual appearance. Twine can also be paired with card-stock to create custom tags for gifts. Tying special knots in ribbons as well as twine can add bite-size morsels of visual appeal.


To hide tape on the seams of wrapping paper, utilize double-stick tape to secure the paper. Pull paper taught while you work to create neat corners and seams. To create a cleaner edge, fold the paper back to create a “hem” so there are no ragged edges. Slip the ribbons through the twine on the gift tag before tying an elegant ribbon bow to secure the gift tag and finish ensemble.

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Hot Chocolate Chai Recipe

Portland keeps teasing us with promises of cool rainy weather. Every morning, the Smith Tea crew dons heavy scarves and waterproof windbreakers only to pack them away by mid afternoon. Why are we so anxious for our nine months of grey and rain to begin? It’s because we can start playing around with heavy, creamy tea drinks like the Hot Chocolate Chai. Even though we are all committed tea enthusiasts, we still have a soft spot for the other hot beverages of the world. Inspired by a recipe brought to us by one of our friends, this drink is perfect for foggy Fridays and soggy Saturdays.




Hot Chocolate Chai Recipe

Makes two, 8oz servings in 6 minutes.

Ingredients for Hot Chocolate Chai:

2 cups lowfat milk
2 sachets of Smith Chai or 2 tbsp loose leaf Chai
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tbsp vanilla-infused simple syrup

Ingredients for fresh Whipped Cream:

1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

Instructions for Hot Chocolate Chai:

Steam or froth milk that has been heated to 190°F (88°C). Steep the chai sachet in the milk for 5 minutes. Discard biodegradable tea sachet.

Stir in cocoa powder and vanilla simple syrup into the chai-infused milk until sweet, chocolatey, and well-combined.

Pour into two mugs to serve.

Instructions for Whipped Cream:

Chill a bowl and whisk (or an electric mixer’s whisk attachment) in a freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Place the cinnamon powder in the bowl before adding the heavy whipping cream. Whisk vigorously until the cream reaches stiff peaks. Extra whipped cream can be stored in an air-tight container and rejuvenated by whisking for about 30 seconds.

Spoon or pipe whipped cream on top of served Hot Chocolate Chai. Dust lightly with cinnamon powder or with a cinnamon stick to garnish.

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Smith Does Feast

Photo courtesy of SagaCity Media for Portland Monthly Magazine

This September, the Smith team was out and about participating in Feast PDX, “a world-class event celebrating Oregon’s bounty and the chefs and artisans who do some pretty amazing things with it.” It was a hot event that sold out months in advance and was full of enthusiastic participants and attendees.

Naturally, Smith was a great fit for this event since we pride ourselves on blending and manufacturing our teas in Portland. We jumped right in and kicked off our wild weekend at the Night Market sponsored by USA Pears and Snake River Farms at the Ecotrust building.

photo 3

The Night Market was a fun, lively event that celebrated street food from around the world. East meets West as the event infused the great bazaars of Southeast Asia and the open-air shops of Latin America. Revelers enjoyed a night fueled by great food and outstanding beverages whilst embarking on a culinary journey.

Smith Teamaker offered guests a non-alcoholic beverage dubbed the Big Hibiscus Amaro: a lightly sweet infusion of hibiscus flowers, ginger root, rose petals, sarsaparilla, and elderflower served with tonic and lime with a dash of rice wine vinegar. But we weren’t the square at the affair, we also teamed up with Clear Creek Distillery to serve up the Hood River Iced Tea, a blend of lemon juice, simple syrup, Smith Fez and Spearmint, Clear Creek’s Pear Brandy, Pear Liqueur, and Douglas Fir Eau de Vie. We’re still reeling from the fresh, full flavors of this cocktail.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention that among the lineup at the Night Market was exceptional chef, good friend, and Smith purveyor Andy Ricker of Pok Pok, a restaurant notorious for its award-winning Thai cuisine. Ricker was also seen teaching a class at Le Cordon Bleu as well as many other events around Feast Portland 2013.

But the party was just getting started as Smith headed downtown the next day. Steven was part of the lively and well-received Beat the Devil: Create an Awesome Food Business Without Selling Your Soul speaker series panel. Steve joined Kim Malek of Salt & Straw, Piper Davis of Grand Central Bakery, Chuck Eggert of Pacific Foods, and Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb in a passionate discussion about the American food landscape and its ever-changing nature. Steven further shared his passion with those in attendance as Smith Tea was served hot and iced in the panel’s media lounge.

Skilled at being in two places at once, the Smith team was also at Director’s Park to keep spectators hydrated at the Whole Foods Market Best Butcher Contest & Fishmonger Face-Off. Twenty-two of the most skilled butchers and fishmongers in the United States showed off their skills even despite a sudden, albeit short-lived, rain storm that swept through the park. We like to think it just added to the drama of it all.

After drying off and getting a good night’s rest, several local chefs and artisans shared their passion and knowledge with the public in a series of classes hosted at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, including our very own Steven Smith along with wife and co-owner Kim.

steve and kim 5-SMALLFORBLOG

Mr. and Mrs. Smith hosted a tea blending class that quickly sold out to twenty-eight lucky attendees. Steven and Kim prepared samples of tea for the class to taste, and laid out the ingredients the Smith Team blends with everyday. After blending and performing a taste test to make sure everything was just right, the class transferred their dry blends into personalized tins that bore their name as the day’s blendmaster.

marty custom tea tinSMALL FOR BLOG
Attendee Marty Sinthavanarong proudly displays his proprietary blend.


What events did you experience this year at Feast Portland? What events do you wish you could’ve gone to? Tell us below in the comments!

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First Flush

In the foothills of the Himalayas is the tiny  tea producing region known as Darjeeling.  Darjeeling is a town, born from an old army fort in West Bengal, renowned for producing some of the most captivating teas in the world. Their teas are often regarded as the “Champagne of teas”and are protected with the same “designation of origin” as many wines and cheeses found in Europe. The characteristic taste for Darjeeling tea is bright and floral with a medium body and a clean finish. First flush teas from this region have a refreshing, almost green note to them and produce a light coppery liquor. In contrast, the second flush will have more nutty and floral notes with a more pronounced buttery finish.

March marks the beginning of the first harvest season, known as the flush, in Darjeeling. The “first flush” of the season takes place over a period of 30 to 45 days, during which each plant is harvested every 7 days or so. All the leaves are hand plucked, with the skilled “pluckers” only taking the first two leaves and leaf bud. This labor-intensive process helps ensure only the most palatable portions of the plant are used. The tea leaves are then carried in large baskets across the garden to be processed into a finished product.

The traditional “cup and bowl” is the core tool for every tea taster. The size, shape, and materials are highly specific to ensure a consistent taste no matter where one is sampling. In fact, the United Kingdom actually has documented regulations on the dimensions and materials for cup and bowl sets. Traditionally, 2.5 grams (or about one heaping teaspoon) are added to the cup, along with filtered hot water. The tea is left to brew for its customary brew time. Lastly, the cup, with lid still on, is tilted into the tasting bowl. The lid stays snug against the cup and helps to strain the liquor from the leaves. Once the tea is drained, the cup is inverted and given a good shake. The lid is removed and turned upside down, revealing a neat pile of brewed leaves for presenting with the tea. The beverage is traditionally sipped with a deep bellied silver spoon, one gustatory slurp at a time.

Our “deconstruction” of our Bungalow blend includes 2oz of our first flush Darjeeling, 2oz of our 2nd flush Darjeeling, 2oz of our loose leaf Bungalow Blend, and a professional tea tasting cup and bowl. Check out the details here.

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The Most Unique Name in Banking

Our Friends at Umpqua bank featured Smith Teamaker in their latest promotional video. The beautifully done segment features Steve doing what he does best – playing with tea.

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Adelsheim Vineyard


Quote from one of our Winemaker customer Dave Paige of Adelsheim Vineyard

“Thank you very much for the opportunity to taste teas with you. I really appreciate the knowledge and care that goes into your work. Having the chance to come into your shop and experience this firsthand was eye opening! I am especially struck by the parallels between what you do to make exceptional teas and what I do to make wine. The obsession with sourcing the right raw materials and the thought behind each blend is very similar to making a fine Pinot noir. The results are similar also – each tea has its own personality, yet they all show a balance of tannins, textures, and flavors. And when I am to busy to notice all of those things, they are still delicious and satisfying. Please come by the winery some time and allow me to return the favor.”

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