To Our Loyal Community,
Founders give birth to an idea, establish the vision and surround themselves with a loyal and dedicated team to carry out the vision. Each May, we honor our founder Steve Smith for doing just that. Businesses, like children, require great attention and energy each and every day. Every month has a new goal to achieve while facing the challenges of daily operations and putting forth continuous efforts to provide exceptional products and give outstanding customer service. To also be a place where people want to work takes commitment and fortitude. Ultimately, a business shares the same qualities and dynamics as a family; the pulse comes from the people who nurture it week in and week out.
As I sit here reflecting on the past year with a steaming cup of Bungalow, I am transported back to India, the origin of much of the tea we enjoy. In July, our group of five made the journey to Assam, India to participate in the graduation ceremonies of the School Education Retention Program (SERP) students, who we support in partnership with Mercy Corps. The graduation ceremony, in addition to the road naming ceremony of The Steve Smith Route in Darjeeling, was a very personal and poignant moment of the past year. We followed that nearly month long trip with a tea salon presentation of a short film and launch of our limited edition Golden Tippy Assam, with proceeds going to Mercy Corps.
Steve was dearly loved and respected in India for his passion and lifelong commitment to raising the bar for quality tea in America. This appreciation was recognized again by the community of the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, where Steve was the recipient of a posthumous lifetime achievement award. Our son Jack, a senior in high school, flew down to accept the honor on his father’s behalf.
In keeping with Smith tradition, Tony Tellin, our head teamaker, introduced a number of innovative new teas starting with teas on tap, including the Nitro Chai: a wicked blend of spices and black tea with a foamy finish that has quickly become a fan favorite. He also created a unique, limited addition amaro-inspired tea with Bull in China, that customers soon demanded be available year round. We call it Astoria’s Amaro with a friendly nod to the crafters and distillers of Italy for the complex blend of bitters, herbs and cascara.
Our tasting rooms are now open seven days a week serving up flights of tea, handcrafted tea lattes and specialty drinks that have tapped the interests of customers from all around the world. The original little brick building on NW Thurman Street continues to be a discoverable and intimate location that draws visitors from exotic locales and we look forward to opening our garage doors to sunnier weather at our headquarters on SE Washington.
Tea has much older roots and a deep appreciation in Asia, and we are fortunate for our friends there who have become dedicated Smith Teamaker fans and comprise our strongest international partnerships. We are proud of the work we have done with Orefarm in South Korea, with whom we have some big plans in the works to be announced later in 2017. And our Japanese distributor, Krongthip, who have been instrumental in our growth and a recent feature in the esteemed Brutus Magazine. We enjoy our occasional trips to showcase our tea and visit our friends across the globe, including the most recent Portland Fair from where a few of our teamakers just returned, exhausted yet full of enterprise.
This past year has also included the welcoming of several wonderful new teamakers and a few sad goodbyes as, like all families, people transition and go off to explore new horizons. Each individual adds their own character, sense of humor and personal touch to the work we do and it is important to acknowledge that whatever the circumstances, it is never easy to part ways with good people. You know who you are and you are missed.
In closing, it has been a productive and exciting year at Smith. While there is no end to how we can continue to innovate and deliver delightful tea experiences, remaining true to our roots keeps us humble. Steve’s vision for perfecting the details of a good cup of tea – from opening a Smith sachet, adding water to the leaves and enjoying the fragrance, color and taste of one of life’s simple pleasures – is the work we will continue to deliver year after year.
Kim DeMent Smith
We will again be selling our Founder’s Blend in our stores and online for the month of May. We will also continue to sell our loose packs of Golden Tippy Assam, which includes a $10 donation to Mercy Corps with every pack purchased to continue providing assistance to those in need.
In addition, we will be serving Bungalow and Iced Big Hibiscus gratis in both tasting rooms on May 29th. Please stop by to enjoy a cup of tea and share stories.