Teamaker central

When I was in Portland, Oregon, Gregory and I stopped in at the headquarters of Steven Smith Teamaker. Smith is the guru behind two major brands of tea: Tazo and Stash. After those two businesses were acquired by major corporations, he opened a third tea company, this time under his own name. He now sells small-batch, artisan teas around the world.

His shop is in a former blacksmith building on tree-lined NW Thurman Street. Inside, I found a tasting bar with a selection of teas to try, a wall of all the teas he sells, and a mini museum of tea paraphernalia. But visitors tend to gravitate to the window at the back, where the manufacturing room is a hive of activity with tea being packaged into sachets and boxed into distinctive string-tied cartons.

While we were watching a teamaker pour Meadow tea (an herbal Egyptian chamomile, blended with hyssop and rooibos) into the top of a packing machine, a gentleman passed by and said “Good afternoon!” His face didn’t register until after he was gone, but I realized it was Steven Smith. The teamaker told us that the company’s owner was there everyday, involved in every aspect of the business, because he loves what he’s doing.

At the tasting bar, I wanted to try a tea flight, a comparative tasting of four different teas, but the weather had turned very warm that day, and something cold sounded more thirst-quenching. So I had an Exceptional Black Iced Tea (a blend of Assam and Ceylon) and Gregory had an iced Fez Tea (a Moroccan-style green tea mixed with Oregon spearmint and Australian myrtle). Both were very refreshing, especially the minty Fez. A perfect taste from a master teamaker!