What’s The Deal With Tazo Tea, Teavana, and Starbucks?

image credit: starbucks.ca

For most people, this is probabally old news, but I hadn’t noticed this until recently. Starbucks has made some big moves into the world of tea over the years, including Tazo Tea along with Teavana. Starbucks went with Teavana for their stores over Tazo, with the Tazo Tea brand still being available in grocery stores and elsewhere, but as you may already know – things aren’t all peachy keen for Teavana anymore.

Sometimes it’s nice to have a traditional tea ceremony, to really get into the moment, to embrace and explore the unique flavors that each leaf brings to the table… but sometimes, you just want something quick and easy. We’re not going to pretend that Teavana or Tazo Teas are the absolute best brand of tea on earth. At such a huge scale, it’s not always easy to keep the quality at its peak, especially when you start dealing with big corporations, shareholders, and so on. In any case, they definitely have some interesting flavors, and an even more interesting back story. Also, both brands have certainly helped to introduce more people to tea, and to make it more accessible.

Much of the best quality tea out there comes from smaller to medium sizes companies, in our experience, but it’s worth noting that ‘best’ is subjective. For some, ‘best’ means you can run into the grocery store and pick up a tin of Twinings for a few bucks and be on your way. For others, it means a masterfully aged pu’er brewed at exactly the right temperature using water from an enchanted waterfall that has had a unicorn swimming in it at some point in the previous 3 days.

Whichever camp you fall into, there’s a time and a place for everything. They say the best camera is the one you have with you when the opportunity for a photo arises, and tea is similar. The best tea is the one you’re going to drink and enjoy the most. If it’s a very fancy tea that catches your taste buds and suits you best, great. If it’s something off the shelf at the grocery store or Starbucks, that’s great too.

Backstory of Starbucks’ Relationship with Tazo (and Teavana)

Tazo Tea was founded in 1994 in Portland Oregon, and in 1999 the company was sold to Starbucks in 1999 for a whopping 8.1 million dollars.

There was a Tazo branded store which opened as a trial in 2012, however it was converted shortly after to a Teavana store. Recently, it was announced that Starbucks was going to be shutting down their Teavana retail locations.

Why did Teavana fail?

image via sierralaneconstruction.com

The Teavana store experience can vary from city to city, however one of the common issues that people have is the high-pressure sales atmosphere, due to the fact that employees are allegedly pushed very hard to meet quotas, and could even be punished if their average bill of sale isn’t high enough. If someone comes in and just spends a couple of bucks on a little bit of tea, it can reflect poorly on the employees for not up-selling the teas enough. Some see the up-sale mentality as being a bit predatory to people who don’t know a lot about loose leaf tea or about some of the other options out there.

At the end of the day, tea is ‘supposed’ to be a relaxing, calming endeavor, and you don’t want to feel like you’re at a furniture store or a car lot when you’re looking for tea. It’s not the fault of the employees at Teavana, they’re just doing their jobs, and many of them have resisted as much as possible since it’s just uncomfortable. It’s corporate pressure that created an uncomfortable shopping experience for customers at Teavana and an awkward place  for people to work, and ultimately lead to the downfall, or at least, that’s how it seems. Frankly, we’re not familiar with the inner workings of Teavana’s business, we just know what it’s like to visit the place as a customer, and are going off of feedback we’ve heard from others.


Having said that, your local Teavana could be totally different than described, and we’re definitely not trying to generalize too much. If you’ve had a great experience at a Teavana store, please feel free to write in and let us know, and the same goes to anyone who has felt uncomfortable or awkward there as well.