Tea: Portland’s other hot brewing scene

Famous for coffee and beer, Portland's tea scene also deserves recognition.

Steven Smith TeamakerSteven Smith Teamaker offers tea tasting of their famously delicious blends.

While Portland is renowned for pioneering craft brews, it should also be known for hoisting mugs of another sort; specifically, ones filled with locally steeped tea.

The local tea revolution reaches back to 1972, when Stash Tea Company steeped its first bag at its headquarters in an old Portland Victorian home. The company has since moved its headquarters to suburban Tigard, but has a shop on North Mississippi Avenue.

The late Steven Smith, one of Stash’s founders, was the founder of Tazo Tea (a brand now owned by Starbucks). He followed up Tazo’s success with his eponymous brand Steven Smith Teamaker, founded in 2009. There, tea curators blend and pack teas and botanicals in tiny batches grown in the world’s best producing regions. Their unique, artisanal and highly curated range of products can be credited with starting the tea renaissance in Portland, giving locals a taste of the best ingredients steeped without any shortcuts. Their blends are available all over the city, including at company’s shop on Northwest Thurman Street and their new location in Southeast Portland. Visitors to their shops can sample a tasting flight of different teas, choosing their favorite from the wide variety of blends (try their “Portland Breakfast” blend: a black tea with notes of malt, leather, spice and peat).

A black and green tea at Steven Smith's tasting room.

A black and green tea at Steven Smith’s tasting room.

Relative newcomers Townshend’s Tea Company opened in 2006, and has become a favorite with its Alberta Street Teahouse, where cups and bags are available for sale. Their newer Division Street location has quickly become a perfect pair with the neighborhood’s hot restaurant scene. In addition to freshly-steeped teas, Townshends also offers cold bubble teas made with tapioca pearls and fruit gels that are perfect for summertime sipping.

Loose-leaf cafes also pour it on in Portland, serving tea from bubble to bagged. Tea Chai Té is a cozy tea shop on Northwest 23rd Avenue that features comfy couches, games, books and a covered balcony. Fifteen different chai blends make it a must-sip. Lastly, but certainly not the least, The Tao of Tea has locations on S.E. Belmont Street — where they sell and serve organic teas in an old wood, bamboo and hand-painted shop and cafe — and at the Tower of Cosmic Reflections, the authentic and masterfully constructed tea house within Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden. With this many options, Portland surely has your cup of tea.


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