Did you know all January long is hot tea month? A glorious celebration which should be celebrated with parades in the streets, municipal holidays, and streamers thrown from the tops of very tall buildings. Alas… I’ll probably have to settle for a month full of large batches of tea brewed by hand and kept in large quantities by the pitcherful near my laptop. Keeping me company this month has been this trio of fine blends from Smith Teamaker, a standout boutique tea shop from Portland, Oregon.
While Smith’s Portland operation may be boutique, with their small, handcrafted batches all put together in their Portland Tea Factory, Smith’s roots lie at the centre of a much bigger tea story. Their namesake founder, Steven Smith, was the teamaker who founded the Tazo and Stash tea companies. Smith was one of the tea industry’s leading entrepreneurs.
Stash tea was acquired by Yamamotoyama, Japan’s oldest tea company, in 1993, while Tazo was acquired by Starbucks in 1999.
Aside from their impressive corporate legacy, Smith Teamaker also does great work with the Mercy Corps. in Assam. I love a company that cares for others and acts like good humans.
Blend No. 1800: Rum Pot
This might be my favourite holiday tea. Smith’s teamakers dug up an old-world German style of preserving called
The soaked berries were strained and dehydrated. The yummy berries are used as the base of the Rum Pot tea.
Added to the rum-preserved aged berries is a wiry Colombian black tea grown in the volcanic soil of the West Andes mountains.
Its taste is brisk, sweet, a smidge astringent, and smothered in the sweetness and warm rummy flavour of the berries and licorice.
Colombia is not a huge tea-growing region, so its inclusion was an interesting point that was nice to experience. Other materials in the tea include licorice root, and tart hibiscus flower, plus spicey star anise. The whole tea brews a pleasant cranberry-coloured liquor which adds to the holiday feeling.
Rum Pot is one of Smith Teamaker’s Limited Edition Teas, only available at certain times. Keep an eye for these
Blend No. 1912: Rose City Genmaicha
Genmaicha is a traditional Japanese green tea made using Sencha and toasted brown rice. Smith has put a twist on this by blending in Mao Feng green tea from China, rose petals, and bergamot oil (the same as in Earl Grey tea).
I love the results. How many
The light and toasty flavour of genmai toasted brown rice combined wiht the light grassiness of the green tea, the bouquet of bergamot, and the kiss of rose at the end really ties this blend together. There’s also a smidge of manuka honey, because of course.
This tea comes as a loose leaf, but I actually loved having this tea in a single-serving teabag (which is something I don’t say very often), because it’s just the right level of sophistication that I can throw it in my purse and then look classy AF when I whip it out while working for a quick afternoon steep on the road.
The Smith Teamaker sachets are made of a material that doesn’t impart any gross teabag taste to the teas. Something I can’t always say about tea bags.
If you feel inspired after drinking this and are in Portland, you might consider heading over to Portland’s Japanese Garden It was also one of the places I visited and drank tea on my visit to Portland.
Find Blend No. 1912: Rose City Genmaicha on Smith Teakmaker
Blend No. 1851: Portland Breakfast
Here’s a tea that will stay by your side and keep you awake on those rainy, winter mornings, or dark afternoons where you have to leave work after the sun sets.
This is a tea that reminds me of old studies, with malty scotch and peaty whiskey—books with veiny leather spines rubbed smooth, and a grounding earthiness that lets you sink confidently into your armchair with a favourite book. Eff the world. It’s teatime.
Not too astringent, this tea is a blend of second flush Assam, Pu-erh, and Keemun black teas.
I’m not a big breakfast tea person, but I’ve got to say—this blend, with the inclusion of the pu-erh especially, really does it for me. It’s a damn sexy blend. The kind that makes me want to be a librarian. Now—hand me a book and get out of my study so me and this blend can be alone.
Find Blend No. 1851: Portland Breakfast on Smith Teamaker
The tea for this review was provided free of charge. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I also visited Smith’s Tearoom in Portland, Oregon on my last visit. I recommend stopping by if you’re in the area.