Experience Tea Like You Never Have Before
Two years ago, we dreamed of bringing a new concept to life where tea and plant-based foods wove seamlessly together from leaf to cup to plate. On Saturday, May 29th, 2021, that dream comes true with the Grand Opening of our brand-new Smith experience on NW 23rd at Glisan in Northwest Portland—the same neighborhood where we first planted roots back in 2009.
When this was just a bud of an idea back in early 2019, we invited chef, farmer, forager, and friend Karl Holl into our tea lab for a tea tasting and R&D session. We'd known Karl for a few years at this point, always admiring his deep commitment to his craft, connection to the land and his seasonal sensibilities. Our values very much align, and his process was remarkably like how we source and create our offerings here at Smith. It was after only a few moments in the lab that the “ah-ha” moment happened, and Karl immediately began not only slurping teas, but picking up and eating whole dried and wet leaves to explore different ways to experience the tea plant. It was there that he spoke to the tea department about unlocking the library of flavor sitting within our selection of nearly 100 teas, botanicals, and infusions in a culinary capacity. And our new tea café was born.
As the culinary development continued, Karl worked hand-in-hand with our tea department to innovate new ways to weave tea and food together for an exceptional flavor experience. For example, beets for the Garden Sandwich are roasted in fragrant jasmine tea, quinoa for our signature Smith Bowl is cooked in vegetal Sencha green tea from Japan, and floral White Petal tea infuses the sheep’s milk cheese on the Rainbow Carrot & Barley Salad. At breakfast, house-made Chocolate Hazelnut Granola is doused with Chai Milk (hot or cold), and coconut yogurt is topped with a house-made Red Nectar Strawberry Jam (strawberry jam infused with Red Nectar, our beloved rooibos/honeybush tea blend).
In creating this project, we also had the opportunity to collaborate with some incredible local artisans who share our commitment to craft. We worked closely with Grano bakery to bake breads for the café and create custom cookies and pastries enhanced by tea, such as a Chocolate & Peppermint Croissant (filled with Woodblock chocolate infused with peppermint tea), a Masala Chai Spiced Morning Bun dusted with chai-cinnamon sugar, and a Pacific Lemongrass Curd Danish.
Ever innovating, our head teamaker Ravi and his team designed a new way to express flavor from our black and herbal teas using an espresso machine, which we fondly call our “ ” machine. This technique extracts the aromatics and produces a full-bodied, concentrated tea while bypassing a long steep time, and is used in crafting drinks such as our Meadow Latte – think apple pie in a cup –and the Black Lavender Latte—our smokey twist on a London Fog. 30 different teas will be offered to brew hot, as well as four refreshing iced teas. We'll also offer signature tea flights, and a traditional Gaiwan service to showcase oolongs and other rare teas over multiple infusions. Complex seasonal, non-alcoholic tea cocktails will be created by Smith’s Tea lab and featured on the menu each month. The first featured is the Silver Linings, a refreshing mix of Yunnan Silver Needle tea, clarified grapefruit and house-made hananero syrup.
In developing the space, we enlisted Portland design maven Andee Hess and her design studio Osmose Design to create a physical expression of our brand. She drew inspiration from our iconic packaging elements and the teas themselves to design a soothing green-hued space with stylish elements such as geometric “vines” that travel up the front windows, and a quote by our founder Steven Smith into the oak paneling that reads “The perfect cup of tea is one shared with others.” Hot tip: Don’t miss the restroom, designed to evoke the feeling of being inside of one of our signature tea cartons.
Steve and Kim always dreamed of opening a café and we couldn't be more honored to bring their vision to life and open our doors on Steve’s birthday, a day we celebrate throughout Smith as Founder’s Day. We want to give a special thanks to our entire team and chef Karl Holl for making this opening possible, especially during a global pandemic. We toast to our incredible community, our partners, our team and to Steve. To celebrate the occasion, we will gift complimentary commemorative tea tins to the first 100 customers when we open the doors on May 29th. Doors open at 9AM and our hours are 9AM to 5PM daily. We look forward to welcoming you soon.