Smith Teamaker is a wonderfully small teaworks on a shady street in Portland, Oregon where one may encounter the finest, freshest full leaf teas, tonics and elixirs handcrafted in very small batches by master teamaker Steve Smith and his talented, hand-picked team.
Steve Smith wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. But he uses one every day to taste, test and perfect some of the most interesting teas in the world.
It’s a passion that goes back to babyhood. His mother, Babe, always said he was a born teamaker. Maybe it was the sweet tea with milk he drank at his grandmother’s house. Or the mystical beverages he encountered as a young man in Southeast Asia.
Whatever the true genesis, by 1972, Steve was manager of the first natural foods store in Portland, Oregon, and he and two partners founded the Stash Tea Company, which gradually grew to become one of America’s favorite consumer brands.
Stash was acquired in 1993 by Yamamotoyama, the oldest tea company in Japan, and Smith left to pursue a new vision. Working in his home kitchen, he created a new super-premium brand based on the artful blending of the highest-quality teas and botanicals.
The resulting “Reincarnation of Tea” came to be known as Tazo, and Steve its head tea shaman.
In 1999, Tazo was acquired by Starbucks, and Smith and his team continued to lead the company until 2006. During this time, he concocted over 60 of Tazo’s most popular drinks. He also founded the CHAI project for the benefit of some 20,000 villagers in the tea producing regions of Darjeeling and Assam, India.
Parting ways with Tazo in 2006, Smith moved to Avignon with his wife, Kim and their ten-year-old son. But after a year of wearing scarves and eating lunch for two hours, the path of tea called them back to Portland.
Inspired by the perfumers of Paris and the fine chocolatiers of Provence, he once again picked up his tasting spoon — a big-bellied, sterling silver antique found in a stall in Tinsukia, India. Steve uses this spoon daily, to perfect the teas that bear his name. Joined by trusted cohorts from his previous tea adventures, he lovingly crafts each small batch of Smith in his Teaworks atelier.
Which is where you will most likely find him today.