Steven Smith with children
New Hope Network on March 11 inducted Steven Smith of Stash and Tazo into its Hall of Legends at Natural Products Expo West for his substantial impact on the natural products industry. Smith passed away in 2015 at age 65 from liver cancer. His son, Jack, 18, accepted the award on his behalf. “I’m here to honor my dad’s legacy and continue what we’ve been doing as a company,” Jack Smith said during his heartfelt acceptance speech.
Steven Smith went from humble beginnings to becoming the founder of two of the most well-known U.S. tea brands. He co-founded Stash Tea and later founded Tazo.
Smith was not the son of a tea plantation owner nor an heir to a tea empire. He grew up in the working class Errol Heights district of Portland, Oregon, where he drank tea with his grandmother. His taste for tea was so sophisticated that he could discern not only from which region of the world a tea originated but oftentimes which plantation had grown it.
In 1972, Smith and two business partners formed Stash Tea, which became one of the most popular specialty tea brands in the country. Yamamotoyama, Japan’s oldest tea purveyor, acquired Stash in 1993.
Afterward, Smith created Tazo, which also exploded in popularity. Tazo’s Awake became the top-selling black tea in the U.S. natural foods market. Starbucks acquired Tazo in 1999 but kept Smith at the helm.
In 2002, Smith had Starbucks collaborate with Mercy Corps and Tazo suppliers to form the Community, Health and Advancement Initiative, also known as the CHAI Project, which has helped more than 20,000 people in the Indian tea producing regions of Assam and Darjeeling. The CHAI Project focuses on improving water systems and roads and supports education.
Smith’s son, Jack, also has traveled to India, “I got to learn about the people, the social aspects,” he said. He emphasized “how important is it to maintain a conscience about where we’re sourcing.”
When asked about how he felt to be a part of the Hall of Legends ceremony, Jack said, “It feels great.”