A Letter from our Co-founder Kim DeMent Smith
We will again be selling our Founder’s Blend in our stores and online for the month of May. In memory of a life well lived, $7 of your purchase will go to benefit children participating in Mercy Corps’ education programs in Assam, in the tea lands he loved.
In addition, we will be serving Bungalow and Iced Big Hibiscus gratis in our SE Washington tasting room on May 29th. Please stop by to enjoy a cup of tea and share stories.
To Our Loyal Community,
When Steve, my partner and founder of Smith Teamaker, passed away last year, the family at Smith decided to honor him every year on his birthday, May 29. It is the year of his birth, 1949, that you see on our cartons and packages and is the number we have selected for this honorary tin bearing his image and containing Steve’s favorite tea.
Steve was a regular boy from SE Portland, whose curiosity about tea and its origins grew into a passion – a focus and an outlet for his extraordinary creativity and need to share. He wanted to expose and delight people with the variety of tastes and flavors from some of the most exotic places imaginable for an American boy: India, Sri Lanka, China and Japan. Traveling to far off Morocco, the fields of Egypt and the misty hilltops of Darjeeling – all by just immersing in the aroma of a cup of tea. While doing so, keeping the packaging and the experience uniquely American – local, approachable. That was Steve.
This past year, without him at the helm, has indeed been a transition for all of us at Smith Teamaker. Throughout his career, Steve fostered friendship and loyalty in his business. He inspired others and created leaders out of people who thought they only wanted a job and he surrounded himself with people he could learn from and who had the skills he did not. Those people are steering the ship now. Carrying on, everyday – tasting hundreds of teas to select the very best; innovating ways to blend and package our products more efficiently and beautifully; talking to you, our customer – taking care to grow a company that is thoughtful, kind and compassionate.
It takes a lot of busy-ness every day to accomplish this and it’s possible that even the people who comprise this Smith family do not see the real measure of their labors. Yes, Steve had a vision for this little tea company – but it is Hannah who works on the line, Joe and Dave who keep the machines running, Beth who answers your calls, Dan who ships every package out the door, who keep the lights on around here. It is Tony who has humbly stepped into the role as Head Tea Master, Amy who has developed relationships with customers around the world, and our other Amy who manages at least a hundred creative projects at all times. It is the integrity of our controller, Jayna, who keeps us all in line and Jordi who helps us deal with the Cloud.
There are really too many individuals to mention who contribute and make up what you experience in every sachet of tea. It needs to be acknowledged that even a visionary needs a team of people to make his vision a reality. This past year, we expanded our production and added a second tasting room on SE Washington Street, we added a selection of new varietal teas to our line-up and collaborated with chefs to create the Maker’s Series. We’ve added the ability to keep you stocked on your favorite teas without having to re-order every month and added new people to our staff – including a President and friend, Tom Clemente.
We are especially proud of the partnership we continue through Mercy Corps called the Student Education Retention Project (SERP); where we have, with our partners, funded support centers that have helped over 850 students who live in the tea gardens of Assam graduate from high school. This summer, 40 of those students will be receiving scholarships to attend college as a result of the gifts that were given in Steve’s honor by way of The Steven Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund. We will be making the trip to India this summer to recognize and celebrate with these students and their families. In addition, we recently learned that a new road has been constructed in Darjeeling and one of our dear friends and tea producers is designating the road to be an homage to Steve and the legacy he has created in the tea community.
Gratitude is what has kept me afloat during this challenging year of losing my love – gratitude for the strength and commitment of the team, for our loyal customers who trust that we will continue to deliver the best tea experience possible and to the memories of a man whose passion was so contagious and inspiring.
Thank you for your continued support of Steve’s vision and our dream – to deliver beauty in your cup. Thank you for following us in social media, for posting your comments and sharing your favorite tea experiences with us. We look forward to serving you for many years to come.
Kim DeMent Smith