Smith, described by The New York Times as having helped “transform the nation’s tea-drinking habits as much as any American since that party in Boston Harbor in 1773,” was the rare American in an industry that belongs to names like Lipton, Twinings, and Tetley, all British.
Smith was a major factor in the growth of the tea industry in the last several years. Since 1990, the wholesale value of tea sold in the United States has exceeded $10 billion. In fact, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. (a trade group), America is the second-largest importer of tea after Russia.
Smith’s tea career began when, while managing a health food store, he and his business partner began processing mint for sale to Lipton and Celestial Seasonings. Their profits led to Stash, the specialty tea company later sold to Yamamotoyama, one of Japan’s oldest tea companies. His next company, Tazo, was sold to Starbucks in 1999.
Smith is survived by his wife and cofounder, Kim Smith, as well as his daughter, three siblings, and two grandchildren.