Portland’s coffee lovers are legion, with no end of opinions on the best ways to imbibe — whether you’re after a pour-over, a cold brew, a sugary caramel macchiato or a plain old cup of joe. But this town also has a quiet, passionate tea movement with throngs of drinkers choosing the leaf over the bean. And for that, the city can thank the Steven Smith Teamaker.
The company was co-founded in 2009 by the late Steven Smith, a specialty tea industry veteran and Portland native, with his wife, Kim DeMent Smith, following his early success with companies like Stash Tea Company and Tazo Tea Company. DeMent Smith and head tea maker Tony Tellin carry on at the Steven Smith Teamaker, which now has two locations in Portland.
With the same small-batch mentality that has infused Oregon’s craft food and drink scene from beer to bratwurst, the company purchases hand-selected teas and herbs, carefully numbering each batch and packaging them by hand. Offerings run the gamut from black, green and white teas to herbal infusions, but these aren’t your typical teas. Signature blends include Lord Bergamot, White Petal (Egyptian chamomile and Chinese osmanthus flowers) and Meadow (Egyptian chamomile, hyssop blossoms with rooibos, rose petals and linden flowers).
Steven Smith Teamaker might be serious about tea, but the company leaves lots of room for play. In the past it has concocted offerings like pinot noir tea using barrels from Adelsheim Vineyard. Recently the company announced its Makers Series — a collaboration with Portland chefs like Vitaly Paley and Gregory Gourdet as well as artisan ice cream maker Tyler Malek, resulting in a Russian black tea blend, a Phuket Fire (Chinese hibiscus, pineapple infused with lime, Kaffir lime leaves, toasted coconut and Thai chilies) and oolong ice cream, respectively.
True to Portland’s local food and drink scene, Steven Smith Teamaker offers tea lovers (and the tea-curious) the chance to taste and learn more about quality tea. Stop in at the original 1626 NW Thurman Street location and recently opened shop at 110 SE Washington Street for a pot of tea, a tea latte, a taster’s flight or a growler to go. You can even buy a freshly packed box of tea right off the production line. Whatever you choose, you’ll be steeped in a Portland tradition.