By Peggy Watt
Starbucks has underscored Teavana’s role in the company by teaming with chai-loving icon Oprah Winfrey, who arrived to cheers at Starbucks’ annual shareholders meeting in Seattle March 19 to introduce Teavana Oprah Chai, a custom blend arriving in Teavana and Starbucks stores next month.
A year and a half after Starbucks bought Teavana, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is still touting the company’s commitment to tea – “the $90 billion global tea market,” as he told the shareholders several times.
“We’re going to do in the long term for tea what we have done for coffee,” Schultz said, noting that he sought a like-minded partner to promote Starbucks’ refocus on tea.
The introduction of Oprah Chai is not only promoting a love of tea, but also reinforces Starbucks’ charitable efforts. (At its annual meeting Schultz emphasized its recent support for veterans’ groups and hiring veterans and veterans’ families.) Because Winfrey is also known for her charitable work, sales of Teavana Oprah Chai will benefit the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, which supports education programs for youth. For every two ounces sold, $1 goes to the charity.
The blend goes on sale April 29 in Teavana and Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada. It is described as an infusion of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves, blended with loose-leaf black tea and rooibos. Winfrey developed the blend with Teavana teaologist Naoko Tsunoda.
Baristas at the meeting offered samples of sweetened and unsweetened varieties to good reception, even for this generally coffee-focused crowd. (Starbucks annual meetings are appreciated for their generous spread of coffees and bakery items – which this year were all from La Boulange, which Starbucks acquired a year ago).
Winfrey and Schultz settled into overstuffed chairs on stage to discuss their deal.
Schultz related that he had observed Winfrey drinking tea at a wedding they both attended. “You didn’t think much of the brand,” she reminded him wryly. He didn’t, and so he sent a sampling of Teavana Chai to her hotel room, which began a conversation that led to her designing Teavana Oprah Chai with the Teavana development team.
“Starbucks is not just a coffee company. It’s about nurturing the human spirit,” Winfrey said. “And that has been my goal in life. This felt like something I really loved and I really cared about and that would be fun to do.” She said she is a longtime chai drinker and welcomed the opportunity to develop her own blend. Teavana Oprah Chai will be served to guests on “Steep your Soul,” a new segment on the OWN Super Soul Sunday show, when guests share their recharge rituals. “I offer them my chai, and they take it whether they like it or not,” Winfrey declared.
Schultz referenced both the common ground of commitments to social causes and having gone through difficult times as businesses. Headlines flashed on the display at the shareholders meeting referenced both lucrative times for Starbucks and the rocky start of the OWN cable network. He said he sought a partner who “loves tea” and “is committed to giving back.”
The packaging is distinctive, too: the canister is an attractive light olive tone with copper lid. The clever box design has an orange base but that same olive-green lid, short enough to show the orange base.
Teavana Oprah Chai will also be featured in a new store design, Teavana Fine Tea + Tea Bars, open now in Seattle and New York and scheduled to open 20 additional locations in the coming year including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.
View the Starbucks product release press announcement here.
For past Tea Biz reports on Teavana/Starbucks, see Oct. 2013 First Look at Teavana Fine Tea Bar (Oct. 2013), Teavana Update (Feb. 2014), and Teavana Founder Andy Mack Leaves Starbucks (Feb. 2014)
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