Entering the doors of Smith Teamaker’s tasting room and headquarters in Northeast Portland, I’m wrapped in aromas of peppermint, licorice, and other herbals, cacao, cream, cranberries, pine, and whiskey. Wherever I turn, there’s something new.
Head Teamaker Tony Tellin says, “We’re here to kick off what we’ve been doing for the holidays, and introduce some of the new products we’ve created with others.”
Inside on a cold and rainy Portland evening, this visit to Smith Teamaker is my personal holiday kick-off. This is the time of year when I often stock up on teas for the winter months, just as I re-stock my wine cellar and liquor bar. But I’m also considering those on my gift list and I leave with plenty of ideas for the tea lovers in my life—as well as chocolate lovers, fans of spirits and cocktails, and homewares.
Hmmm, that’s just about everyone on my list. That works.
Collaborations and Smith Teamaker
The brand is well-known for making some of the highest quality premium teas available and packaging each with gift appeal. Many products are Limited Edition small batch teas; some are even sold in numbered boxes.
Collaborations too have become a Smith Teamaker mainstay. Working with others in the food and beverage industry has resulted in high quality, creative teas for the company and partner products for collaborators, with each benefiting from the creativity.
Tea Lovers Who… Love Chocolate
Alma Chocolate is the brainchild and passion of Portlander Sarah Hart. She’s been making and selling her chocolates since 2004 and opened her first shop in 2006. The brand’s namesake is her grandmother Alma, which means “soul” in Spanish and “nourish” in Latin. Today, she operates two Alma Chocolate shops and distributes nationwide (and to Japan) to select gourmet stores, as well as from her website.
Hart worked with Tony Tellin to create a selection of three tea-flavored dark chocolate caramel bon bons. The confections incorporate cream, honey, and one of three Smith Teamaker teas: Lord Bergamot, Masala Chai or Smoked Assam. The result is quality you taste with each bite.
Tea Lovers Who…Like Supporting a Good Cause
Smith Teamaker purveys the highest quality teas they can, but they also pay attention to the needs of the people growing the tea. Owner Kim DeMent Smith partnered with Mercy Corps, the Portland-based humanitarian organization whereby a purchase of their Golden Tippy Assam tea will result in a $10.00 donation to Mercy Corps’ School Education Retention Program (SERP). The program helps provide access to college for secondary students on tea estates in India.
The tea is a full leaf black tea from Assam, India; rich in flavor, with notes of caramel and malt. Satisfying in taste, as well in global engagement.
Tea Lovers Who…Enjoy Distilled Spirits Too
Smith Teamaker next worked with House Spirits Distillery and Stone Barn Brandyworks to create two teas that have spent some time in barrels from the distilleries. Each of the two teas sat about a month in dry barrels in which the spirits had aged. The barrels were turned every couple of days.
Tellin and Christian Krogstad, founder and distiller from House Spirits, created Wuyi Whiskey tea with black tea and Krogstad’s Westward Whiskey barrels, while Tellin and Stone Barn’s Sebastian and Erika Degens collaborated to create Yaupon Brandy tea with barrels that had contained their Oregon Apple Brandy.
Both teas have distinct aromas and flavors from the spirits, with the “whiskey tea” resulting in a fully smoky, dark and rich whiskey- scented amber tea. The “brandy tea” is an herbal infusion that is softer and warming, but also woody and full-flavored.
Tony Tellin said, “We’re grateful to both of these distilleries for sharing their barrels—we know this isn’t something they can give out lightly. But we really love what the barrel can do for tea; for both the flavor and the aromatics.”
Tea Lovers With …an Eye For Aesthetics and a Taste for Creative Cocktails
Bull in China is Katie Burnett, Lucas Plant and Daniel Osborne’s answer to well-designed and elegant barware. For the holidays, they created cocktails and mocktails that incorporate concentrated Smith Teamaker teas. They worked with Tellin to create Astoriamaro tea, one of Smith Teamaker’s Limited Edition Maker’s series teas, and with that, came up with the “Amstoriamaro Digesteaf.” It’s a mocktail with Astoriamaro tea, simple syrup, lemon, tonic and a dash of bitters.
Their Chai Aquavit Macchiato is mixed Smith Teamaker’s Masala Chai, Krogstad Aquavit, orgeat and a saffron cream.
The Spiced Cranberry Sarsaparilla mixes sparkling sarsaparilla, Smith Tea, and Cranberry SOM, one of Pok Pok’s superb drinking vinegars.
Tea lovers should definitely consider using teas in cocktails, and Bull in China has some great gifts for the home bartender.
Tea Lovers Who…Love a Good Meal Out
One of Portland’s long-time favorite chefs and restaurateurs, Vitaly Paley has created another fine dining experience with the opening of Headwaters at the Heathman Hotel. Tea lovers will especially enjoy Chef Paleys’ Russian Tea, open from November 25 thought January 1, when Paley and staff take over the Heathman’s sumptuous Tea Court Lounge. They offer three seatings daily for a high tea that features such Russian specialties as mushroom piroshki, blini, buterbrodi, stuffed eggs, an assortment of pastries, and more.
Paley and Smith Teamakers have worked together before, and this time their collaboration results in two of exclusive teas Paley will include on his tea menu. The Georgian Caravan black tea (strong in the nose, soft in flavor) is even more special with a dollop of house-made jam stirred in, and the Chocolate Peppermint Pu’erh, with peppermint leaves, cocoa nibs, and orange blossoms, will lift the soul in holiday cheer.
Silent Night, Morning Light
The company’s holiday staples are back once again; ready to be stuffed into Christmas stockings. Both are packaged in tins of 15 sachets. The red-labeled Silent Night is a caffeine-free herbal infusion of peppermint, cinnamon, ginger and licorice. The green labeled Morning Light is a full-leaf blend of Ceylons and Assam teas, rosemary and Douglas Fir needles. Wake up to a cup of Morning Light before racing out the door and end your evening relaxing with a cup of Silent Night.
The winter months bring a long list of holiday celebrations for many cultures and religions from around the world. And for each and every person, I extend a wish for peace and love.
- Smith Teamaker, www.smithtea.com
- Alma Chocolate, www.almachocolate.com
- Bull in China, www.bullinchinapdx.com
- Pok Pok Som Drinking Vinegars, www.pokpoksom.com
- Stone Barn Brandyworks, www.stonebarnbrandyworks.com
- House Spirits Distillery, www.housespirits.com
- Vitaly Paley’s Headwaters, www.headwaterspdx.com
- Mercy Corps, www.mercycorps.org
- For more on Smith Teamaker, see here.
-All photos by Nancy Zaffaro.