PORTLAND, Ore. — It’s all about transparency at Steven Smith Teamaker in Southeast Portland. At the Washington Street tasting room, a huge glass wall is the only thing standing between you and tea production. A showcase to quality and the commitment to craft is what it provides and upholds, according to head teamaker Ravi Kroesen.
“This is an example of what we do day in, day out, just small batch quantities handcrafted. To get our customer the best experience possible,” Kroesen said.
On Monday, a special batch was brewing — 375 pounds of tea from a new partnership between Smith Teamaker and Scottie Pippen, NBA hall of famer and former Portland Trail Blazer.
“What's really interesting is you know, many of us just know him as a basketball player,” said Kroesen. “But he is a connoisseur of fine products, and his bourbon is a clear example of that.”
Earlier this year, Pippen and business partner Dave Phinney launched a new bourbon label called Digits.
“Knowing that it was a Oregon, Portland-based company, that was something that excited me,” Pippen said. “It's a city that I'm very familiar with. Got a lot of great fans there and I felt like this was a great fit.”
“His team brought this idea of utilizing his bourbon whiskey and pairing it with tea with Smith Teamaker to create a really fabulous product. And that was the initial starting conversation and from there we built the tea that we see here,” added Kroesen.
The new collaboration is called Digits Bourbon Barrel Aged Black Tea. A blend of three different black teas stored in Digits bourbon barrels for five months, along with cinnamon, vanilla and coconut.
“Really looking forward to this partnership being something that's very successful,” Pippen said. “We think that…this is a great space for especially during the holidays and…people want to spend time with family and friends, especially with the pandemic and things that we've been going through these last few years.”
The tea will be released online and at Smith Teamaker’s two tasting rooms on December 5, Repeal Day, recognizing the end of prohibition. Ten Scottie Pippen-signed tea boxes will be raffled off to celebrate the launch. Pippen hopes you won’t have to look far for an excuse to enjoy it.
“I think the tea world is something that is very healing in a lot of ways,” said Pippen. “I'm just happy to be able to say, ‘cheers.’”