The Accidental Locavore was invited to a tea and coffee tasting recently to promote Smith Tea and Stumptown Coffee, and to preview some of Smith Tea’s holiday offerings. For as much tea as I drink, it was the first time I’d actually been to a tasting.
When we walked in we were greeted by tea maker Tony Tellin, who handed us a small cup of Ali Shan, an Oolong tea with a lovely floral, citrus flavor. It hasn’t been released yet, but check back on their site for it.
Smith was envisioned as a luxury tea company and everything they do represents an almost obsessive attention to bringing the best in tea to their customers. All the teas are whole leaf teas and the boxes are batch numbered so you can find out exactly where your tea came from.
This could all be a little too precious, but while Tony is all about making great tea, he comes at it from a fun, experimental place.
Following the Ali Shan, we switched to a Mao Feng Shui green tea. Tony told us that the best green tea comes from the spring harvest and this was an April harvested tea. It had a light, floral taste and not the sort of strange, grassy taste I always associate with green tea.
Next up was my go-to breakfast tea, Earl Grey. Being fussy enough to have my Earl Grey brought over from England, I was curious to see what their blend would be like. They source the bergamot from Italy and blend it with teas from Ceylon and India. It’s a little fruitier than my usual smoky blend, but interesting-playing up on the citrus notes of the bergamot.
Then we moved on to the special holiday blends (soon to be released) Tony had been working on. He’s been barrel-aging teas in barrels used for local spirits. The first one he’s calling White Christmas, as it was made from white tea aged in white rum barrels for two months, along with chrysanthemums and pears. It had a lovely floral scent with a mild flavor and a hint of the pear and rum.
Another special blend was the Georgian Caravan. It’s actually so special it’s signed and numbered (and you’d better move fast, my box is 415 of 475). Russians add jam to their tea so along with this smoked Ceylon tea there’s a jar of huckleberry jam to be stirred into your cup.
We also got to taste some experimental blends that may or may not make it into the holiday line-up. There was a mulled black tea that had been aged in Aquavit barrels with clove, cinnamon, roasted hazelnuts, cranberries, star anise and coconut.
Bonus points to you if you know what moringa is. For the rest of us (who don’t watch Dr. Oz), it’s the latest super-food. In case it sounds too healthy, Tony mixed it with tea, sarsaparilla, licorice, orange peel and Jameson Whiskey for an interesting blend with a slight smoke from the whiskey, but a little too much licorice for my taste.
Besides all the special teas we got to taste, Smith Teas has a large selection of teas on their website. And while they may be a little precious (they are from Portlandia after all), the teas I’ve tasted have all been really good, so give them a try or gift them for the holidays.