The folks that gave us the Frappuccino would like us to try an Earl Grey crème. Last October, Starbucks unveiled its first Teavana “tea bar”—a tony new format for its sister chain with lounge seating and elaborate tea lattes—on New York’s Upper East Side. With 1,000 more in the works, Starbucks hopes to exploit demand for a brew that lags coffee in sales but is more popular globally. “This is not your mother’s Lipton tea, just as Starbucks wasn’t Folgers,” said Schultz. True. A cup of Lipton never cost $5.95.
Starbucks is, of course, late to the game in Canada, where homegrown player DavidsTea has been growing aggressively. Both chains are pushing a similar ethos — the abundant shelves comprehensively stocked with dozens or hundreds of different tea blends, the quasi-ritualistic preparation of your cup, and the perky staff focused on giving a concierge-level consultation on what to drink. Both companies are betting that the same customer base who would have laughed at the idea of paying $6 for a cup of coffee 20 years ago but now does so daily can be persuaded to do the same for a carefully steeped cup of Jasmine Oolong. (And yes, you can get Pumpkin Spice as well. Just not year-round.)
Below are some scenes from the opening of the the first Starbucks/Teavana tea bar in New York. Expect one to show up soon at a mall near you.