What we in the US lack in understanding and adhering to the traditional tea standards of Asia or Great Britain, we make up for in creativity and ingenuity. These quintessential American ideals have led to the popularity of jasmine pearls, the explosion of a wellness tea market, the use of everything from chocolate to yogurt in our teabags and all kinds of unique flavor combinations, ingredients, processing methods and tea shop concepts.
To get a taste for the scope of specialty tea in the United States, spend a day on a tea tour of Portland. This is what I would recommend:
4759 NE Fremont St, Portland, OR 97213.
Everyone in Portland raves about Pips. They are famous for their made to order mini doughnuts and flights of chai. I liked their Heart of Gold turmeric chai the best, but there is something for everyone at Pips. Jeff loved the campfire chai made with Lapsang Souchong and my friend Laura got the Thai Tea style chai. Our boys liked the house chai as well.
1615 NE Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97211. Also in Southeast Portland at 4330 SE Division St and coming soon to Northwest portland at 1075 NW Northrup St.
I have followed Tea Bar on Instagram for some time so I was excited to visit their shop. I was really impressed to say the least. Everything I had (which was almost everything on the menu over the course of a few days) was so very well done. This is New American tea for sure– modern, clean, skillfully made, high quality ingredients. You will not find a huge selection of teas on their menu, but you will find all kinds of hot and iced tea drinks made from a limited number of teas and other fresh ingredients… boba, mimosas, lattes, steamers, tonics, hot teas. Everything is excellent. In fact, I think they have the best matcha latte I have ever had- get it with cardamom on top!
2223 NE Alberta Street in Northeast Portland. Bozeman, Bend, Oregon, and Mississippi Avenue in Portland.
Townshends was one of the original specialty tea shops in Portland. I have been working with them for over 10 years and in their growth from 1 shop to 5 shops, they have consistently maintained an extreme focus on quality. Their teashops are great for a quiet cup, conversation, work or just to taste tea– they have over 100 loose leaf teas in house. They also are the only tea company I know of that makes their own kombucha. We were able to find it on tap north to Orcas Island and all around Portland.
1626 NW Thurman St, Portland, OR 97209
The late, great Steven Smith of Stash Tea, Tazo Tea and most recently Steven Smith Teamaker deserves much credit for Portland, Oregon becoming the mecca of specialty tea in the United States. For the last 45 or so years, he continually raised the bar with each new brand he started there, inspiring a New American tea revolution which is currently evolving as we speak.
Full of tea relics collected by Steve Smith during 45 years of traveling the origins of tea, Smith Teamaker has a classic, mellow vibe and a full offering of lose leaf teas, tea lattes and iced teas in a downtown industrial area. Innovation has always been their trademark and they continue this legacy with creamy, dairy-free chai on nitro, carbonated teas like a local strawberry and honeybush blend and iced teas on tap. Just last week, they introduced an herbal tea amaro/ digestif that will take the mocktail to new heights.
239 Northwest Everett Street
This place is just lovely and although it is at the bottom of this list, I would put it at the top of your list–just make sure you have some time to really soak it in. Lan Su Garden, a historically accurate treasure, engages all of your senses with fragrant gardenia flowers, enormous and perfectly pink lotus flowers in the pond, a walkway made of pebbles in a mosaic design that massage your feet as you go and giant orange, red and white koi. You could be in an Emperors palace in 16th century China.
The Tower of Cosmic Reflections, the teahouse serviced by the Tao of Tea, is a two story traditionally built teahouse where you can experience some of the most fresh teas in the world served in the gongfucha – Chinese tea ceremony- style with fresh, healthy tea snacks like matcha dusted pumpkin seeds, mooncakes, almond cookies, pressed plums and horsebeans.