Tiazzi Blended Tea Beverage: A Starbucks history lesson from 1998 – 1999
Over ten years ago, Starbucks launched a blended beverage called “Tiazzi.” A regular reader of this blog recently sent me two promo posters for Tiazzi, and so I am sharing them here. The photos are attached – I think these posters would have been in-store advertising for Tiazzi, and the fine print on them dates to 1999. To be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about Tiazzi, so I did some research, and this is what I came up with! Consider this blog post another one of your Starbucks history lessons from StarbucksMelody. 🙂
In twitter conversation, one person told me that an early test version of Tiazzi caused stomach pain! I did some Google searching and found this news article that says that the earliest 1998 test version of Tiazzi caused gastric discomfort! (It is a 1999 article that refers to a test “last summer.”)
One of my twitter followers said that the first two Tiazzi flavors launched were “Wild Berry” and “Mango Citrus.”
From what I can tell, there were initially two flavors of Tiazzi launched in 1998 (after a short test?), and then in May of 1999, Starbucks added “Peach and Cream,” “Orange and Cream,” and “Berries and Cream” flavors. I think the two original flavors were indeed Wild Berry and Mango Citrus. One news article here describes the initial launch of Tiazzi Blended beverages as June 22, 1998. This 1999 news article describes the launch of the expanded line of Tiazzi blended teas to include the cream versions. (By the way, that news article is very interesting! It also says that in May 1999, Starbucks added the “Rhumba” flavor to the Frappuccino lineup!)
The fruit flavor ingredients for the Tiazzi came from a company called Seneca Foods Corporation. They made the beverage concentrate that was used in the stores. It appears that the relationship with Seneca Foods ended in litigation over unused supplies of the beverage concentrate located in Seneca Foods’ possession. According to an opinion by the Washington State Court of Appeals, Seneca Foods produced “Wild Berry” and “Mango Citrus” flavors. Initially, in 1998, Seneca appeared to have challenges keeping up with product demand, but by January 1999, they had a surplus. This surplus was the basis of the lawsuit, and Seneca demanded that Starbucks pay for the expired beverage concentrate. Per that judicial opinion, in 1999, Tree Top Incorporated purchased Seneca Foods. Ultimately, Starbucks won that lawsuit.
After a lot of digging, I found a 1998 Starbucks statement about Tiazzi, taken from the 1998 third quarter investors’ conference call:
Tiazzi. Tiazzi recently launched and is receiving a strong welcome thanks in part to promotion and coupons to try the drink. Tiazzi represents the idea of constant self-renewal that Starbucks embodies — not to embrace the status quo, not to rest on past success, but always to be a step ahead of any competition, sometimes by means of surprising customers with drinks no one else has considered. Starbucks must leverage its foot traffic, and Tiazzi introduces another beverage choice aside from coffee.
It seems as though the “Tiazzi” name caused Starbucks some consternation also. Steve Smith, the entrepreneur who began Tazo Tea, wrote a cease and desist letter to Starbucks, stating that the name of the beverage was too close to the “Tazo” Tea brand name. Apparently it wasn’t too long after that that Starbucks bought Tazo! According to Wikipedia, in 1999, Starbucks bought Tazo for a little over 8 million dollars. This blog article here has an incredibly detailed history of Steve Smith and his tea entrepreneurship.
I wasn’t able to figure out exactly when Tiazzi was removed from the in-store beverage lineup. From casual conversation with former partners, it seems as though Tiazzi might have been discontinued in about 2000. If anyone knows exactly, please do tell!
There you have the Tiazzi story! I’m sure there is a lot more to the story, so if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments!