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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Harper

Smith Tea Recommendations

Fun fact: Steven Smith, a Portland native, was the founder of Tazo, co-founder of Stash, and co-founder of Smith Tea. I love both the Steven Smith Teamaker cafes found in Portland, and Smith Tea is one of my favorite brands currently.

Their old location in NW off of Thurman was a tiny, quiet little cafe with brick walls that was utterly charming. Their new location off of NW 23rd Ave has some Starbucks vibes - less appealing to me, but bigger and with outdoor seating. That location offers alcohol and food, both mixed or infused with tea. Very interesting offerings, even though I find most of the food a little too try-hard.

The SE location is also the factory where they blend and package tea. It's spacious and has outdoor seating, tucked away in industrial SE, but conversation is occasionally drowned out by a train passing on the tracks at the end of the block. At both locations and at the grocery store, Smith's packaging is eye-catching and elegant, with structured boxes in solid colors, metallic color variations distinguishing seasonal teas, and stacked, ordered tins.

At either cafe you can order a flight of teas, a great option when you're learning about tea, or just want to taste multiple options side by side. I'll include some of my recommendations below (which are heavy on the black tea). I haven't tried every tea they offer, so let me know if you have any recommendations!


Black Teas


Breakfast Brunch - A solid breakfast tea with malty notes, delicious with milk.

Portland Breakfast - An unusual twist on a breakfast tea as it has Pu-erh. I'm not always in the mood for it, but when I am, I drink it with milk.

Black Lavender - Lavender, Ceylon and lapsang souchong (smokey), black currant, and vanilla. The dry tea smells almost like potpourri. I like this tea but *only* in a tea latte with sweetener. I feel like it's made specifically for that.

Morning Light - This seasonal tea is available in Fall/Winter. It's a delicious, fruity but subtle black tea, one I tend to stock up on when it's available and savor throughout the year.

Lover's Leap - A delicate black tea with rose petals and chamomile. This is the Valentine's Day seasonal tea, available in Winter/Spring, and visually notable for it's pale metallic pink box.

Other black tea offerings: Lord Bergamot, Masala Chai, Bungalow, Kandy, Chocolate Peppermint Pu-erh (sorry for grouping this with the black teas!)


Green Teas


Rose City Genmaicha - Honestly the most inspired blend at Smith, in my opinion. Sencha and Mao Feng green teas, toasted rice, and rose petals - warm, floral and light.

Ho-Ho-Hoji-Chai - Roasted green tea and chai spices. Sometimes this tea tastes like weed to me, and I'm not sure I like it, but I try it every year. This is a Smith Seasonal tea, and is only available during Fall/Winter.

Other green and white tea offerings: Fez, Sencha, Jasmine Silver Tips, White Petal, Yunnan Silver Needle


Herbal Teas


Red Nectar - My favorite of the Smith herbal teas, and my favorite rooibos. It's actually a blend of rooibos and honeybush, and in the tin it smells like strawberries. Pairs well with milk, so I often drink it in the evening or if I'm trying to cut back on caffeine. Sometimes you can get iced, carbonated Red Nectar from a tap and the cafes, and it's amazing.

Golden Light - A nice variation on turmeric teas with black pepper, lemon, and sarsaparilla.

Other herbal offerings: Meadow, Peppermint Leaves, Lullaby, Sooth Sayer, Dandy Detox, Big Hibiscus


Iced Teas


Smith has a huge selection of iced teas, and I sort of dislike all of them. The cafes will usually base their featured drinks around these in the summer, and sometimes those combinations are good. But something like the Blackberry Jasmine iced tea - Jasmine Silver Tips, butterfly pea flower, blackberry, orange peel, and mango, plus a squeeze of lemon to change the blue color to purple - is too many flavors! It's reminiscent of Salt & Straw's approach to their seasonal ice cream flavors.


Collaborations


Ice Cream Royale - Not to completely denigrate Salt & Straw: This is a fun as hell collaboration between the two companies, featuring a buttery oolong with sugar pearls, chamomile, amaretto, and vanilla. It's light but almost too decadent. It's also a limited release, but not seasonal, so it's not clear when it will be back once it's gone. Definitely worth a try.



A cup of Ho-Ho-Hoji-Chai and Smith's avocado toast with tea-infused cheese spread.



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