Tea 101

Why Full Leaf Matters

Aug 22, 2023

We never compromise quality and taste, which is why we only source top tier full leaf teas from our partners around the world. While many think full leaf teas are reserved for only loose tea enjoyment, we deliver that same full leaf quality tea drinking experience in convenient, plant-based sachets that provide the leaves room to properly express their wonderful flavor. 

Tea fannings next to full leaf Smith tea to show difference in cut size.

With full leaf tea, the various aroma and flavor compounds naturally occurring in the tea leaves are intact. The result is often a more nuanced, flavorful cup of tea. Broken tea leaves or tea leaf dust (often known as "fannings" in the tea world) make up the majority of tea in the market.  It is often the result of a more mechanized, factory-minded tea production that can result in a potentially flatter cup of tea and often is stale by the time it reaches the consumer.

At Smith, we source fresh full leaf tea every season, then handcraft, blend and pack them in very small batches to carefully preserve their whole leaf quality. This means you get a complex cup of tea with quality leaves you can feel good about drinking from Smith, every single time. 

How we buy tea

Every season, we regularly evaluate and purchase teas from many of the famous growing regions in Asia with a focus on finding high quality, full leaf teas we enjoy, with the hope that you will too. Sometimes we are asked, why are our teas offered at a price higher than your typical grocery store brand? This can be answered first by looking at the teas we choose to buy.

Hand grabbing a cup full of tea during a line tasting in Darjeeling, India.

At Smith, we always look for the best teas available, which we often pay more for due to their quality. This process is performed by a team of experts who ‘cup’ (or taste) through hundreds of tea samples every season, evaluating for flavor, mouth feel and other aspects that often give our tea a special sparkle. 


We buy tea the same way everyone should — from friends we’ve grown to trust over many seasons. We go directly to origin at the right time of year. Walk the gardens with people who understand everything about their plants. Deepen our roots with farmers who believe in clean ingredients and enriching the lives of their workers. We cup at the source — to be sure of the best taste — then cup again at home in Portland, with Portland water, for absolute consistency. All year round, samples arrive daily at the Teaworks from tea gardens, traders and brokers. Some are purchased directly, others from auctions in the tea trading centers of Calcutta, Colombo.


Much like a modern French restaurant, we exist to give classics new life. Everything is handcrafted. By us. In house. Every ingredient is purchased single-origin. We don’t buy anything pre-blended from large companies overseas. Tea is agricultural. Its character changes from year to year, and re-formulating a blend is a high art. So we keep encyclopedic notes, and taste multiple test batches in our tea lab as many as ten times before it reaches your cup.


Once we receive our single origin products and gently blend them in small batches, we carefully package your tea in a variety of ways at Smith Teaworks. Weighing and packing by hand into tins and 4 oz bags for loose leaf tea. Or, through our finely tuned teamaking machines if you prefer our signature plant-based sachets. We’ve had friends stop in and tell us we can go faster over the years. But, we believe that faster is not always better. It’s about quality, not quantity at Smith.


Our shipping department is next door to our manufacturing facility, so you receive the freshest tea possible. Once it’s ready, our team of tea elves are ready to deliver directly to your door.

Line tasting of Darjeeling teas with full cups of tea next to brewing vessels filled with loose tea.

Curious to visit our Teaworks and watch your tea being made? Come visit us in exotic Portland, Oregon. Our tasting room is open daily from 10am to 6pm.