Video: Tea is divine on Upper Union

KATE BUNSTER/GAZETTE REPORTER

A scoop of Divinitea's persian plum rose tea.KATE BUNSTER/GAZETTE REPORTER A scoop of Divinitea's persian plum rose tea.

BY KATE BUNSTER
Gazette Reporter

SCHENECTADY — It’s no secret that Linda Smith is good at what she does.

Though she spends most of her days concocting delicious tea blends at her Upper Union Street, Divinitea, there is another side of her job that requires her to sell her tea blends. Over the years, she has gained accounts all over the world.

“When I first started selling tea in New York City, people would shoo me out of their shops,” said Smith.

Since then, she has won over the hearts of restaurant owners and tea distributors, in addition to the local community. One thing that sets her apart are the high standards she holds for the quality of her tea.

The tea Smith sells comes from all over the world including Japan, Sri Lanka, India, China, Hawaii, South Carolina and Russia, to name a few. All of the tea at her shop is USDA NOP Organic certified, which she takes pride in.

“When I started making tea, everything I did was about quality,” she said. “If I couldn’t identify it, I wasn’t going to use it.

KATE BUNSTER/GAZETTE REPORTER Linda Smith, explains the different types of tea she carries in her tea shop, Divinitea on Upper Union Street.

KATE BUNSTER/GAZETTE REPORTER
Linda Smith, explains the different types of tea she carries in her tea shop, Divinitea on Upper Union Street.

It took me years to fine pure, organic, really good product.”

Growing up in Albany, Smith watched her mother, a scrap cook, use things straight from their hay and alfalfa farm in her cooking. She began to realize that these things were edible and could be used in tea.

“I started making blends from the earth and researching if I, myself, could take them in without killing myself,” said Smith.

From there, came the creation of her famous “detox” blend which contains plantain, alfalfa, dandelion and clover.

For thirteen years, Smith ran her tea business from her home. She now operates out of a more “friendly” space at 1708 Union St., which is split into two parts: a small retail section that sells tea and tea-related products and her office space, where she prepares to ship tea all over the world.

Both watching her parents run combination store on Greene Street in Albany and earning a dual major in hotel and restaurant management and business.

During her studies, she worked with the Sheridan Corporation, who sent her around the world to European-style restaurants to learn.

She recalls a time when she had to be graded on making a pot of tea. “You either passed or failed,” said Smith. “If you failed, you were not a waitstaff. If you passed, you were a wait staff in a very high-end restaurant.”

Although tea is her business, she very much so values the people she interacts with on a daily basis, no matter where they are in the world.

“People are so genuinely lovely,” said Smith, of her interactions with customers. “It’s really the experience I’m looking for in life…to meet and make friends.”

Upper Union Street’s Divinitea from Your Niskayuna on Vimeo.