The legendary American tea entrepreneur, Steven Smith, passed away Monday at age 65.
If you don’t immediately recognize his name, you certainly know his work: Smith co-founded three famous brands- Stash Tea Company, Tazo Tea and Steven Smith Teamaker. Smith is credited with revolutionizing the American specialty tea market by introducing fresh, high quality tea to a new generation of Americans seeking a healthier, more authentic lifestyle.
Born in 1949, Smith served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. After returning to the states he managed a natural foods store, founded a coffeehouse and produced mint before starting Stash Tea Company with Steve Lee. In 1993 Stash was sold to a Japanese company and shortly after Smith co-founded another highly successful brand- Tazo Tea. Tazo was purchased by Starbucks in 1999 and Smith stayed on until 2006. A year later, he and his wife Kim DeMent Smith launched yet another premium brand, Steven Smith Teamaker.
Smith’s talent extended far beyond his ability to sell high-end tea. Behind the novel packaging and imaginative marketing of each brand was Smith’s personal attention and passion. Considered one of the world’s top tea tasters, Smith traveled to remote areas of the globe on a regular basis to personally select product. His palate was so refined, with one sip he could identify the part of the world a tea came from and which plantation produced it. He also created several of his own blends including popular Tazo names like Awake, Om and Zen.
The Steven Smith Teamaker brand, headquartered in Portland Oregon, employs a staff of 30 and is sold in over 2,000 stores including Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma. The company will continue under the leadership of his wife, Kim DeMent Smith, his partner in work and life.