I grew up in Iowa, moved to Oregon in the summer of 1998 and started working in tea the day after I arrived. I was on my way to a temp agency when I stopped to talk to someone who said his employer had a pretty cool place to work. It was a company called Tazo, and I've been in tea ever since.
I started in the warehouse but it wasn't long before I moved into blending and started working closely with Steven Smith, the founder and head maker. We enjoyed each other and developed a good shorthand in communicating. Over time and many cups Steve started trusting me with formulation and procurement decisions. Eventually I stepped into a buyer position and started traveling the globe sourcing teas, botanicals and spices. I started representing the company at industry events and for the CHAI project, a joint initiative between Starbucks Coffee Company and Mercy Corps, aimed at increasing the quality of life for rural communities in and around Darjeeling, India.
I was with Tazo for 10 years--through the time of its sale to Starbucks-- and had the honor of working with some of the best and brightest people, companies and organizations out there. Starbucks was a great employer and invested in my career and growth. I was professionally trained in sensory evaluation, negotiation, quality systems and general business. I worked in trading offices in Colombo, Jakarta and Kolkata to better understand tea, the industry and the market. I worked alongside development professionals and supported projects with Kraft Foods, Haagen-Dazs, Hershey's and other successful brands. It was fun and rewarding.
In 2008, I joined Steve again to help him, his family and friends start up Steven Smith Teamaker. Together we turned an old blacksmith building into an artisan tea production center and introduced a new style of tea to North America. We built product lines for Mars Candy, for Collectivo Coffee and we made custom products for William Sonoma, Indigo Books and countless others. We launched a bottled tea line and expanded our offerings and grew the business. Those were happy days. In 2015 Steve passed away from cancer and life hasn't been the same since.
When Steve passed I stepped up and did my best to fill his shoes. Everyone wanted to make Steve proud-- none perhaps more than me. We launched the Makers Series, teas on tap, expanded the cafe offerings, introduced new varietals and blends and continued to grow the company. It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot and we made some cool products.
In 2018, I left Smith Teamaker to spend more time with my kids and to walk a different path. The company was, and is, in good hands. The new owners are loving and supportive and the team in Portland is crazy talented and is carrying on Steve's legacy. I will forever love the man, the company and the people who are all family in my book.
A TELLIN COMPANY
Today, along with friends and family we are creating teas with a new style and different approach, and having as much fun as we can in the process.