Springtime at Smith Teamaker has an energy like no other. While holiday releases and iced tea summers come with their own waves of excitement, spring marks the beginning of a new tea year, full of hope and possibility. This energy can be felt the most clearly in the formulation lab, where the first of this year’s tea samples are already arriving from tea growers all over the world.
I sat down with Donovan, Anthony, and Ravi to discuss everything that makes the spring so special. Of course, we began with a cup of tea—a 2023 Mao Cha, one of several samples cupped up at the table. This complex, energetic tea is an early form of what will become Sheng Pu-erh. When a favorite sample has been chosen, Ravi explained, the Mao Cha will be steamed and compressed into Pu-erh cakes for this year’s lineup.
The majority of Smith’s products are sourced just like this. As samples arrive by mail, the lab team rush to cup and taste, so that procurement can begin. Anthony, who is experiencing his first spring in the lab, described the spontaneous shift in pace.
“It can be at a moment’s notice—we have a tea come through the door and suddenly we’re tasting through twenty teas we hadn’t planned earlier. Very different than December or January where there’s a clear schedule. We definitely have to be lighter on our feet.”