At Sentinel, you may have noticed how much we love Steven Smith Teamaker Company. Why are we so into it? Besides its great flavors, the Portland-based company has an amazing backstory as well, and its founder was influential in popularizing the British habit of tea drinking in the coffee-centric Pacific Northwest. Here’s everything to know about Steven Smith Teamaker Company.
Born in 1949 and raised in Portland, Steven Smith was ultimately inspired to venture into the tea business by his grandmother, who brewed sweet Red Rose tea for him in her Southeast Portland home. This, combined with his interest in joining a growing natural and organic food movement in the early 1970s, sealed his career as a purveyor of fine teas.
Smith launched Stash Tea in 1972, marketing it via mail order, and shipping sachets of teas in handmade, wooden boxes. It took off, and the extreme popularity of Stash’s mint tea increased demand for mint so much that farmers across Oregon and Washington needed to exponentially increase their mint crop yields.
In 1993, Smith sold Stash to a 300-year-old Japanese tea company, paving the way for him to create the brand Tazo just a year later. Once again, Smith had produced a hit. Soon, Tazo was everywhere, and just five years down the road, Starbucks would buy this new-age, fine tea brand for $9 million.
Uncomfortable with the idea of retirement after the sale of Tazo, Smith created his third and final tea brand: Steven Smith Teamaker. In 2009, he bought a former blacksmith’s building near Portland’s Fremont Bridge and set up shop. The company built a reputation for its attention to “provenance”—ensuring that the origin of each ingredient was noted and celebrated. Each box of tea sold carried a batch number that led consumers to Smith’s website, and exacting information on every ingredient inside.
While Smith died in 2015, his legacy and shop live on. Smith Teamaker is now headed by his wife, Kim Dement Smith, and a loyal team of tea enthusiasts.
We hope you enjoy the teas during your stay at Sentinel, where Smith Teamaker is a Co-Conspirator.