Along with coffee and beer, another beverage in Portland has been brewing up a scene for quite some time now – tea.
Tea’s place in Portland goes back to 1972, when Stash Tea started out inside an Old Victorian style home (while now based in Tigard, a suburb of Portland, Stash keeps a retail store/tea bar in the city). Then, in the nineties, Tazo Tea, The Tao of Tea and Oregon Chai began budding their respective companies.
These days, Portland is keeping its cup full with locally owned and operated tea businesses. See what six venues are steeping in.
1. Tea Bar
“When I opened Tea Bar in December 2014, I wanted it to be a place where everyone felt welcome; where from the moment they walked in, they felt they were at home,” explains Founder and CEO Erica Indira Swanson. With a modern Scandinavian themed interior and a well-curated tea menu, Tea Bar is that location.
Whether at their original shop in Northeast Portland, or two other locations in the Northwest and Southeast, Tea Bar offers a concise selection of high quality teas sourced from family farms around the world. “I wanted to offer fewer, better options,” says Swanson. By doing so, she said that “everything [is] being made fresh to order and shaken by hand.”
Tea Bar’s bestseller is its traditionally-prepared matcha; it comes from Uji, Japan, which is cited as the birthplace of matcha. Made-to-order boba teas use premium organic teas, with vanilla rose being a favorite flavor. Other popular selections include their “London Fog Latte,” made with an organic Earl Grey and lavender petals, and their “Dirty Detox,” with activated charcoal, cold-pressed organic lemon juice and lavender water. “We source locally when possible — lavender from the Willamette Valley, and our raw honey is harvested here in Oregon,” says Swanson.Creative #tea blends abound in #Portland, Oregon. Check these out! Click To Tweet
Stores are not the only places for partaking in tea in Portland. “Portland’s gardens have always been an important conduit for tea enthusiasts,” explains Chloé Womack, manager of Umami Café at the Portland Japanese Garden. Opened in April 2017, the Umami Café serves a dedicated setting for the garden’s Japanese tea presentations, in bringing them to a broader audience.
With its physical appearance being reminiscent of Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera temple, this Portland café provides visitors the experience of omotenashi (the art of Japanese hospitality) along with offering an authentically prepared tea service. “Our teas are served in sets, which feature Jusgetsudo teas expertly paired with sweets made by local confectionaries,” adds Womack.
Along with selling high-end loose leaf teas, Townshend’s Tea Company focuses on developing different tea iterations. Their efforts have resulted in kombuchas, an apothecary line of herbal medicinal blends, and various spirits. They also make boba teas with slowed cooked tapioca pearls and pure fruit concentrates.
“Bubble tea, kombucha, even a tasty oolong are new to many people, and it can sometimes require an open mind,” notes the company’s Vice President of Operations Jake Gano. “We try to make it easier by making everything delicious, but customers have to be willing to walk through our door instead of what they’re used to.”
That inventiveness has also led to growth. Founded by Matt Thomas in 2004, Townshend’s now owns seven teahouses throughout Oregon – four in Portland, two in Eugene and one in Bend – plus ones in Bozeman, Montana and Park City, Utah.
It also operates Brew Dr. Kombucha and Thomas & Sons Distillery. These go hand in hand, in that a clear distillate coming from its kombucha is used as a basis for its spirits line. The distillate is mixed with herbs and spices, resulting in spirits such as their Townshend’s Gin, featuring their Silver Tip Jasmine green tea, lavender flowers, chamomile blossoms and juniper berries.
Additionally, Townshend’s financially supports Ecology in Classroom & Outdoors (ECO), a nonprofit founded by Matt’s wife, Bethany, which brings outdoor science-enrichment lessons into grade schools.Fun fact: the clear distillate from its #kombucha can be used to make spirits! #gin Click To Tweet
The late Steven Smith left his mark on Portland’s tea industry by co-founding Stash Tea, establishing Tazo and then starting Smith Teamaker with his wife, Kim, in 2009. Today, Smith Teamaker is noted for hands-on blending and packing small-batch teas and botanicals from gardens in the world’s best producing regions.
“We do it all, from hand-sifting ingredients to create the most optimal extraction, to folding the cartons, to building every product,” says Amy Yukas, director of marketing. The company also trains cafés and restaurants in making their own in-house concentrates for various drinks.
They have two tasting room locations. At its original space in Northwest Portland, liquid tea is brewed for their sparkling tea line.
Within their Southeast Portland location — also their office headquarters — their loose teas, sachet teas, and iced teas are packed.
Along with lattes and teas on tap, their tasting rooms offer tea flights. These consist of four 8-ounce cups that customers can select, or go with staff recommendations. Recent additions include Nitro London Fog,” made from their Lord Bergamot tea and whole bourbon vanilla beans, and served on nitro (dairy free). There’s also the “Bai Mu Dan Badam” latte, a twist on a traditional Middle Eastern beverage with saffron, cardamom, creamy almonds and Bai Mu Dan white tea, steamed with milk and topped with rose water.
Along with teas, Smith Teamaker makes custom syrups, jams and spiced tea rubs.
At this historic hotel in downtown Portland, its restaurant, Headwaters, hosts a Russian tea service inside its Tea Court Lounge. Currently two reservation-required seatings are held on Saturday afternoons.
Inspired by Vitaly Paley, chef/owner of Headwaters, this tea service is graced with a collection of antique samovars and a collection of teapots that Paley’s mother has been collecting for four decades.
“I know of no one else doing a Russian tea in Portland,” explains Paley. As for teas, find a mix of Smith Teamaker’s popular teas and two custom-made blends – Georgian Caravan and Chocolate Peppermint Pu’erh. The menu also features traditional Russian cuisine along with dishes that Paley grew up eating.Chocolate Peppermint Pu’erh #Tea is a thing in #Portland. Yum! Click To Tweet
As one of Portland’s tea pioneers in the nineties, The Tao of Tea is celebrated for introducing the concept of international teahouses to the city and offering one of largest varieties of organic teas nationally.
“We think of our ourselves as purists and tea lovers,” says Founder Veerinder Chawla. “We focus on finding fresh, traditional teas, and rare cultivars and varietals of tea.” With Chawla having spent a number of years traveling to major tea growing countries and developing relationships with family farms, The Tao of Tea carries about 200 teas and offers the spectrum of tea products – full leaf, tea bags, bottled teas, kombucha, and customized packaging and brewing services.
With their teas, Chawla discloses that their popularity depends upon seasonal freshness. “For example, Jasmine is best in the summer months, while Darjeelings are best in April.”
Along with this focus, The Tao of Tea’s goal is to generate zero product waste. With packaging, their teabags are said made to be biodegradable, individually packaged in recyclable foil envelopes and printed with water-based inks.
Since 2000, this certified organic tea company has been operating a traditional Chinese teahouse inside Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden. Also known as the “Tower of Cosmic Reflections,” this two-story teahouse gives tea presentations in the classical style, with selections extending to all major categories and paired with snacks and sweets. Established in 1997, The Tao of Tea opened its original teahouse location, built from natural and sustainable materials, on Southeast Belmont Street.
Do you have any Portland tea shops to add? Please share in the comments below!
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