Set in an industrial building in northwest Portland that was once a blacksmith’s shop, Steven Smith Teamaker isn’t the kind of place where you’d find frilly tea cozies and orange pekoe. Instead, think modern tea served in flights in a spacious room surrounded by Indian antiques. Look through the huge picture window behind the bar and you’re likely to see Steven Smith himself hand-blending and packing premium quality tea for discerning palates. The 35-year veteran of the tea trade had a hand in starting both Stash Tea Company and Tazo Tea (bought by Starbucks in 1999). With his third tea venture, Smith uses his connections with the world’s top tea and botanical producers, including Oregon mint farmers to make world-class tea blends that are sold at gourmet shops like William-Sonoma.
Smith uses whole leaves (as opposed to the sawdust-like flushings normally used in mass-produced tea bags) and fresh botanicals in his blends and packages them in large silken sachets to allow the leaves to expand and better infuse each cup. Smith is so obsessed with quality, each box of tea includes a batch number so you can look up the provenance of your cup on their website—from the person who blended the tea to a map of exactly where the ingredients were grown, total transparency is at your fingertips. A new line of bottled ice teas include blends with local marionberries, pears, apples, and even bamboo leaves from the shop’s back garden for beverages so complex and refreshing, you’ll rue the day you ever heard the name Snapple.