Sipping and swirling in Portland goes way beyond the grape variety, with a surprising number of people choosing in-city tea-tasting rooms over wineries. Tea tasting transcends age, gender and culture barriers with exotic herbal varieties, bobas, chai, matchas, oolongs and rooibos, many even sidestepping the caffeine jitters. From simple tastings to tea-on-tap and happy-hour tea “mocktails,” here’s a look at the best places in Portland to tickle your tea-leaf fancy.
Where better to explore the world of tea than from the founder of Tazo tea and co-founder of Stash Tea Company? That would be tea entrepreneur Steve Smith and the ever-popular Smith Tea tasting rooms now run by his wife, Kim. It’s easy to grab a tea latte or one of their barrel-scented teas to go, but the real experience is to settle in for a tea flight in one of the two Portland tasting rooms. The guided tea flights give a tour of four teas or herbal infusions on a ceremonial tray, with tasting spoons and note cards of origin.
Hot Tea Tips: You can take a 45-minute factory tour on Thursday or Friday afternoons, which introduces you to sourcing, blending and producing teas. On weekdays from 3 pm until closing, the Tea Mocktail Happy Hour is pouring three different mocktails with names such as Silver Lining, the Red Herring and Camellia Sour. The Teas on Tap flight lets you try four specialty teas, including a Nitro Blackberry Black with house-made habañero simple syrup, fresh-squeezed clarified grapefruit juice, sweet Yunnan Silver Needle and a smoked cinnamon stick.
This one is only for two hours on Tuesday nights, but it’s a fun way to experience the plush window-lined lobby lounge of the Woodlark Hotel downtown without actually staying there. On “Tea Drunk Tuesdays,” the Woodlark serves Smith Teas with their own special twist. Along with mocktails and nitros on tap, this tea-time extravaganza offers the Enfleurage x Woodblock Chocolate Flight. You’ll sample chocolates deeply scented with tea essence and botanicals, accompanied by three cups of tea that complement and bring out the chocolate flavors.
The Tao of Tea at Land Su Chinese Garden
The Tao of Tea is based in Portland, but it’s all about the art and culture of Chinese traditions, starting with its location at Lan Su Chinese Garden. The authentic Chinese botanical garden blends nature and history with ancient art and architecture to create spaces such as the Courtyard of Tranquility and the Hall of Brocade Clouds. The tea room replicates a Chinese estate from the 1500s, with separate rooms for tea-sipping, music and even calligraphy. Tea flights and tastings here let you sample flavor profiles from Chinese tea farms in Fujian, Hunan, Guangdong, Anhui and more.
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