One of the best things about tea people is the way they share their awesome finds. Jennifer Stowe of Three Sisters Tearoom in Campbellsville, TN sent this delightful surprise thank you gift after our afternoon tea together at The Hermitage in Nashville. What a cool experience, thank you, Jennifer! Happily, the day of the virtual tea class, my mother was in town to share in it with me. (Just the woman for the job, she is known for having a heightened sense of smell).
For several years now, Smith Teamaker has been periodically offering Virtual Tea Tastings, sending you a tasting kit (above) in advance of a Zoom they host to guide your tasting, and answer questions. What a wonderful gift to share with your tea friends, whether you live near or far.
We learned something new in preparing this post: Smith Teamaker, based in Portland, Oregon, is the third tea company founded by Steven Smith, who previously co-founded Stash, then later Tazo, which he sold to Starbucks. Afterwards, instead of retiring in France as he had planned, he was inspired by the local artisans he befriended there to start a specialty tea company that would take an “extra-small-is-beautiful” approach to blending tea: Smith Teamaker.
What’s in the Box? The Contents of the Virtual Tea Tasting Kit
Inside our Tea & Chocolates Virtual Tea Series box we received:
- 6 (2 each) Smith Teamaker Tea Sachets (Black Lavender, Peppermint, Golden Oolong)
- 3 Origin Cards, 1 for each tea
- 3 2 oz. Chocolate Bars from Ritual Chocolate (Juniper Lavender, Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, Peru 75% Cacao)
- Emailed instructions for the zoom call and printable sheets: Tasting Set Up Instructions and Tea Tasting Notes.
We set up our tasting station in front of a laptop as instructed, with Origin Cards or tea sachet package placed above each set of teacups to properly identify what we’d be tasting, electric kettle full of filtered water at the ready.
We also laid out a soup spoon for slurping (to properly taste the teas) and a bowl to catch the used tea sachets, which we naturally reinfused for a second cup of tea.
First a representative from Ritual Chocolate, based in Utah, presents their line of nearly all-vegan chocolate, and encourages us to smell the package as part of the tasting experience. We admire the ethical, sustainable practices of this chocolate company whose future goals are to become 100% solar powered and zero waste.
They explain the order of events: 1. Smell the loose leaf teas before steeping; 2. Smell then taste the chocolate; 3. As we nibble, take a sip of the warm tea to help melt the chocolate in your mouth; 4. Swallow the tea and then take another bite of chocolate. Note your experience — did the chocolate alter the taste of the tea or vice versa?
In five minutes, these teas have said all that they would like to say.”– Smith Teamaker Spokesperson, telling us to pull out the tea sachets before they oversteep
We steep our teas during the Smith Teamaker presentation, during which we learn that their tea sachets are made from corn plastic so that harmful petroleum microplastics cannot leach into your tea. We also learn that teas are best tasted once they have cooled down a bit, because this allows us to better sense their flavor (similar to chocolate, which is best tasted at room temperature).
Experimenting with Tea and Chocolate Pairings
After the presentation, we are invited to mix-and-match the tea and chocolate pairings, and take notes on which combinations we prefer. Our findings? We like the Black Lavender Tea best with the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla chocolate (which we agree does not suit the Peppermint herbal at all). Mom recommends the Peru 75% Cacao with the Peppermint tisane. And we agree that the best pairing for the Golden Oolong tea is the Juniper Lavender chocolate. [Click here to buy these chocolates or teas].
Of course, the best part of this experience was sharing it with my mother, who has always cheered my interests and efforts. That she jumps right in to join me in my enthusiasm for all things afternoon tea is a gift to me. As Mother’s Day approaches, this reminds me that a mother’s belief in you is a very powerful thing, even when you are grown. Mom, thank you for being one of my favorite tea friends, I love you.
Sounds like a fun event to share with your mother. The Steven Smith Teamakers is close (2.8 miles) to my home in Portland, Oregon. I’ve done the in person tea flights at Smiths and always enjoy trying something new.
Ooooh, Suzanne, that’s fortunate – which of their teas are your favorites?