Vendor Spotlight: Steven Smith Teamaker

 Photo credit: Will Foster Photography. 

Photo credit: Will Foster Photography. 

It should come as no surprise that we’re really into details. We obsess over the finer parts of service and food preparation because we know that doing so is one of the things that makes coming in to dine with us such a positive, welcoming experience. From the way we arrange our table settings, to the ingredients we use in every cocktail or dish, to the vendors and farmers we work with – these details matter to us, and they speak to what we’re all about.

With this in mind, we want to shine a spotlight on one of our beloved vendors: Smith Teamaker. Based in Portland, Oregon, the artisan tea company was founded in 2009 by talented husband and wife duo Steven and Kim Smith. “The Smith name has grown to stand for uncommon quality, taste, and innovation in the Super Premium tea category,” the company explains, a nod to the decades of experience Steven Smith gained while succeeding in starting acclaimed tea companies Stash and Tazo.

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Smith, who passed away in 2015 due to complications of liver cancer, made a tremendous mark not only on Portland’s tea scene but on a global level during his lifetime. As journalist Molly Harbarger writes, “Smith co-founded two of the most important tea companies in the U.S., and a third namesake brand that is doing some of the most exciting experimentation with tea in the world.” The Oregonian contributor Richard Read echoes her sentiment, writing, “A quietly charismatic and humorous man, Smith took creative and financial risks to help make tea to Portland what coffee is to Seattle…. He reinvented tea much as Starbucks revolutionized coffee, Oregon craft brewers transformed beer and Northwest vintners refined wine.”

Read also points out that “Smith’s success inspired dozens of other high-end tea start-ups, elevating consumer standards and expectations. His palate was so refined, having sampled hundreds of thousands of varieties, that Portland entrepreneur Steve Lee considered him to be one of the world’s top tea tasters. At one sip, Smith could tell which part of the world a tea came from and often which plantation had produced it.”

Today, Steven Smith’s legacy lives on at Smith Teamaker, a company that prides itself on being innovative and unconventional, as well as philanthropic. “As an American tea company devoted to uncommon good taste in your cup, we source the finest teas and botanicals from friends in India, China, Sri Lanka, and Africa. In most cases, these are growers, exporters, and tea brokers we’ve worked with for over 15 years,” the company explains. “Every blend begins with a moment of inspiration – maybe a nicely aged cask of merlot, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream – that is then perfected with decades of experience and a fine feeling for flavors and fragrance.”

 We absolutely love Smith's Lord Bergamot blend. | Image via Steven Smith Teamaker 

We absolutely love Smith's Lord Bergamot blend. | Image via Steven Smith Teamaker 

At Brimmer & Heeltap, we’re incredibly inspired by Steven and Kim Smith’s passion for tea and the attention to detail that Kim continues to employ in their business. We love serving their bold, delicious teas; The Lord Bergamot blend that we carry has been a particularly beautiful addition to the menu. Described by Smith as having “a flavor somewhat superior to traditional Earl Grey,” this offering is made with select teas from India’s Assam valley and scented with bergamot flavors from the Reggio Calabria region in Italy. Our current menu also contains their Brahmin, Mao Feng Shui, Jasmin Silver Tip, Peppermint, and Big Hibiscus flavors – teas that we enjoy drinking just as much as our guests do.

For more information about this exceptional teamaker, visit Smith Teamaker online. And, be sure to stop in soon for brunch or dinner to try a cup of Smith tea for yourself.

Blog author: Caitlyn Edson