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From Maintenance Man to Tea Connoisseur: Donovan Eilert's Path to Smith Teamaker

Episode Summary –

In this episode of the “Work From Your Happy Place” podcast, Belinda Ellsworth interviews Donovan Eilert, the resident educator at Smith Teamaker. This renowned specialty tea company, founded by Stephen Smith, has captured the hearts of tea aficionados with its unique and inventive blends.

“Persistence pays off in pursuing your passions and sticking around until you're given an opportunity.”

Through engaging conversations, Donovan shares valuable insights and lessons about maintaining brand identity, embracing passion, and nurturing a grateful mindset. Join us as we delve into the key takeaways from this inspiring episode.

1. Maintaining Brand Identity: Challenging the Norm:
A significant challenge for Smith Teamaker is to maintain its distinct brand identity while continuously pushing the boundaries of the tea experience. From creating blends that feel familiar yet innovative to questioning opportunities that align with their vision, Smith Teamaker emphasizes the importance of earnest discussions and alignment across departments. By nurturing this collaborative approach, the company ensures that every cup of tea reflects their commitment to quality and craftsmanship.

2. Elevating the Tea Experience: Blends, Flavors, and Visuals:
Donovan Eilert, with his curious and obsessive personality, has played a vital role in creating exquisite blends for Smith Teamaker. From the popular Lord Bergamot, a refined version of Earl Grey, to the enchanting BlackBerry Jasmine with its vibrant blue color, each blend is meticulously crafted. With a belief that people eat with their eyes first, Donovan and the team work diligently to make the dry blends and the appearance of the cups a more luxurious experience. The attention to detail elevates the tea-drinking ritual and leaves a lasting impression.

3. The Value of On-the-Job Training and Staying Curious:
Donovan's journey with Smith Teamaker began in various roles, including customer service, sales, production, and education. Their dedication to tea led them to realize the lack of higher education options in this field, emphasizing the value of on-the-job training and learning opportunities. By keeping a beginner's mind and recognizing that there is always more to learn, Donovan has cultivated a deep knowledge and passion for tea, which they share wholeheartedly with others.

4. Gratitude and its Transformative Power:
Gratitude emerges as a crucial theme in this episode, and Donovan emphasizes its impact on maintaining a positive attitude. Initially underestimating the power of gratitude, Donovan's perspective shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic when they witnessed the struggles of others. Focusing on gratitude helped countless individuals find solace and navigate challenging times. Donovan highlights the importance of reflecting on what we are grateful for, incorporating daily gratitude practices, and expressing gratitude for learning opportunities.

5. Craftsmanship and Collaboration:
Smith Teamaker embodies the spirit of collaboration by seeking inspiration from various creative industries, such as spirits, wine, cheese, art, and music. Donovan aptly describes the formulation of new tea blends as akin to being a music producer, layering different elements to create a final product. With a focus on transparency and the use of around 40 main ingredients and additional accouterments, Smith Teamaker continually experiments and refines their craft. The result is an exquisite and diverse range of teas that captivate the senses.

The episode featuring Donovan Eilert provides invaluable lessons for both tea enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. Smith Teamaker's commitment to maintaining brand identity, elevating the tea experience, embracing passion, and nurturing gratitude is truly inspiring. As we reflect on Donovan's journey and the craftsmanship behind Smith Teamaker, it invites us to infuse passion into our work, foster gratitude, and approach each day with a beginner's mindset. So let us raise a cup of tea and embark on our own journey of exploration, inspiration, and gratitude.


About Donovan Eilert –
Born and raised in Portland, OR, he found a love of tea at a young age. Seeing Steven Smith found 2 successful tea companies here, he knew he wanted to be a part this culture. He wrote a letter to Steve and asked how to do what he does. Shortly after he was hired to work in the tasting room and the rest has led him here.

Donovan have spent 10 years working in the tea industry in many facets of the business. From working in a tasting room, on the production floor, brewing kegs, the sales and customer service team, as the formulation manager and now education.

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