The Tazo Tea Store (operated by Starbucks) opens! A sneak peek inside!

by Melody on November 16, 2012

The grand opening of the new Tazo tea store (operated by Starbucks) is tomorrow, the 16th of November!  I dropped by this evening for a special media preview event, and got a sneak peek inside.  It was sensory overload.  I can’t begin to describe everything, but it was so much fun being there.  It’s one of those place where people will want to smell every jar before walking out the door.  I took a ton of photos, and I still feel like I can only describe a fraction of the experience.

Inside the store, as I recall hearing, there are over 80 loose leaf teas available.  You can create custom blends, or buy your favorite teas, find lots of tea brewing merchandise, and get tea beverages from the beverage area in the back of the store.  Or, you can stand there in sensory overload.

Beverage area:

I got a big kick out of the beverage area in the back of the store.  Cody, a very enthusiastic partner, introduced me to the sparkling iced teas.  I love this idea.  I tried the “Mintly Citrus” as a sparkling iced tea and loved it.  The store has some special CO2 device which essentially adds CO2 to liquids rather than having to add a sparkling water.  This means that if you wanted a sparkling passion tea lemonade, you could do this.  A long time ago (sometime in 2008), Starbucks did a tiny test of sparkling iced teas.  I always thought it was a great idea.  Here’s the beverage area of the Tazo Tea store, and you can see Cody making my beverage:

This might have been my favorite part of the experience.  I will be dropping by again for sparkling tea.  The store will have a three or four tea options available, brewed as standard iced tea, and immediately ready to drink.  A customer can request that any tea be made into a sparkling iced tea.  My sparkling tea was fantastic.

Blending station:

You can create your own custom blends of teas.  I was a little bit overwhelmed by this.  The customer starts with a “base” which may be something like classic black tea, English Breakfast, a green tea, or one of many base teas.  Then you can blend in up to two more parts.  I picked a black tea base with a “chocolate” blend in, which were fragrant herbal pieces to be blended in.  I am doing a terrible job of explaining that.  Anyways, for those who know a lot more about tea than I, I bet this would be a lot of fun.  James, a tea blending expert, walked us through the steps of blending a tea, and mixed the tea in a bowl.  As the customer (media person) in front of me was getting their blend made, I snapped a photo just at the right time that really shows of the “blending.”

Merchandise:

There was an incredible array of merchandise.  You can buy spoons, mugs, tea infusers, flavor-infused sugars, and flavor-infused honey, chocolates, and much more.  In the picture below featuring chocolate, one bar is labeled “Coconut Curry Chai White Chocolate.”  Let me just say, that was amazingly good.  The honeys and sugars are intended by things you might use with your cup of tea.

Interior:

The interior of the store feels very large.  The open, airy design, and perhaps the few hanging mirrors, help make it feel spacious.  There is a tea cupping community table where the store intends to hold tea seminars on a regular basis, including tea cuppings.

Tea and more tea:

Of course, there was tea everywhere.  You can purchase tea in tins, or in little gift boxes, or create a custom amount of tea.  The little metal drawers shown below all contain tea.  As I think about it, I’m not sure if I heard over 80 kinds of tea, or over 100, but it was a lot of tea in the store!

Tazo card:
I have to mention the Tazo tea card.  This was totally cool.  Like the Evolution Fresh card offered at Evolution Fresh stores, this card too can be used at any Starbucks store.  It’s again created to be seamless with the Starbucks card programs.  You earn a “star” for each purchase made with a Starbucks card at the Tazo tea store.  Starbucks seemed to have learned a lot from the launch of their Evolution Fresh card earlier this year.  On the back of the new Tazo card, it tells you can use it at Starbucks!  This is, without a doubt, a collectible Starbucks card!  Very cool!

It’s hard to write about a whole store because there is so much to say.  I hope you get a chance to visit.  Tazo has re-launched their official website, and you can follow Tazo on Twitter too.

If you want to visit, here’s the address:

Tazo Tea (in the University Village shopping area)
2625 NE University Village Street
Seattle, WA
206 729 4953

(You can find all my past Tazo articles here.  I am writing this blog article late at night so please forgive the typos and grammar problems.)  For those who missed it, yesterday Starbucks announced that they would be buying Teavana.   I don’t know what that will mean for the tea experience at Starbucks except to say that I expect there to be more tea options soon.  It will be interesting to see how that develops.  I thought I’d mention it here, in case you’d missed that big tea news.

As is obvious, I had a ton of fun trying food, and tea, and smelling a million different little jars of teas.  So what do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

purple1 November 16, 2012 at 4:22 am

Ok Melody I cannot even begin to say how jealous I am that this store is by you. Ok SB bring one here! As a tea drinker, I love it. I think the store is so visually appealing. I especially like the blending station and the choices of tea! Wow! Also, the rewards card looks so nice and that it can be used like the Evolution card is great. Thanks for the review.

DadCooks November 16, 2012 at 5:50 am

Interesting that the Tazo Stores opens just days after Starbucks pays $620 million for Teavana. Starbucks sure has a lot of cash burning a hole in their pocket.

My daughter was in Dallas TX for a conference last week and brought back some Teavana Teas in their expensive storage tins. Pricey, but good.

We enjoy Tazo Teas (my wife waits in anticipation for each year’s release of Joy).

This will be a move to watch.

Becca November 16, 2012 at 5:53 am

Hi Melody,

First let me tell you that I am Soooo jealous that you have this store in your area. It looks like a beautiful tea oasis. I’d spend all afternoon drinking tea, selecting teas etc. my coffee and tea cupboard is already overflowing but this would push it over the top.
Howard said in a partner webcast this week that Teavana and Tazo will both continue to exist under the Starbucks umbrella. The Teavana acquisition will give us access to more buyers, growers and regions and strengthens our position in the tea market. Being a Teavana fan I’m very excited about the new relationship. They make a pineapple tea that is out of this world.
Have a Tea-riffic day :p

Melody November 16, 2012 at 6:59 am

@Becca and @Purple1 – I wish you could be here to go inside this store. I know you both would love it. You can always go online to tazo.com – though I know that’s not the same!
@DadCooks – It’s interesting timing in the sense of the Teavana announcement. It really makes me wonder what’s going to happen with Teavana. Historically, from the Seattle’s Best and Starbucks paradigm, one brand gets positioned as the less than premium, and the other is considered “premium.” But I don’t see any attempt to take Tazo down market. Maybe we’ll see Teavana products pop up in Starbucks stores? We will just have to wait and see.

Deborah November 16, 2012 at 8:48 am

Wow! I was excited that the holidays arrived at Starbucks, but now I just want to be transported to the Tazo store! I have always been a tea drinker. I used to drink a soy chai, but now I just love our sachet teabags and generally choose Awake. I also collect Starbucks cards and am coveting that Tazo card! Maybe a contest is in order :-) Enjoy your new favorite place for me… Namaste,
~Deborah

purple1 November 16, 2012 at 8:53 am

Melody went to the Tazo website as you suggested and agree it is not the same for sure. I agree sure would be nice to have a contest with a card and perhaps some loose tea included (LOL). This store is so inviting.

Melody November 16, 2012 at 9:19 am

@Deborah & @purple1 – Oh yes, a tazo tea card contest giveaway is in order! I think a few readers here would want one?!

Maka Polaha November 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Wow, that’s amazing! I didn’t know about Tazo Tea, this is the first time I hear about it and I really like the description you gave. I love tea, sometimes even more than coffee. There are certain flavors of tea I never get sick of, but I also like trying new types every time I get the chance. Now I’m completely enchanted by a vanilla-blueberry tea I found in a teashop here in Italy. Lovely!

Chase Jaynes November 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Oh my god – those cards. Melody! I want one! Put some sort of contest up so I can win one. One of every color! Those would go so great with my card collection…

I really need to take a trip up to Seattle!

Melody November 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

@ChaseJ On my phone, sorry so sloppy. I started using my Tazo card today, and so many people noticed it and commented on it! Yes. A contest is a great idea!

Jenn McP November 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I can’t wait to visit this store! Thank you for this, it looks amazing!

CD November 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm

I can’t believe I’m actually going to say this, but I am very disappointed in this store. Yes, it’s beautiful. And yes, it has some interesting things (and yes, I too want some Tazo gift cards).

But it isn’t unique. It looks like a copy of a lot of those retail clothing stores that started popping up about a decade ago like Anthropologie, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of a Tazo store, but this doesn’t really have the personality I expected. I think it actually borrowed someone else’s personality instead of defining and expanding it’s own. The Tazo brand has always had a cool yet quirky vibe to it – remember the Tazo Stone?! There doesn’t seem to be anything unique here. Just another pretty place to buy stuff.

Melody November 16, 2012 at 7:56 pm

@CD – I can see this is a big divorce from the old Tazo. Tazo used to have “quirky” as its middle name. You can see that here too -

http://www.starbucksmelody.com/2012/07/01/tazo-tea-in-store-starbucks-signage/

^ That’s incredibly brave 1999 Tazo tea signage. And yes, I know the lore of the Tazo tea stone. Such a great history.

I just think that it’s very hard to make quirkly really work in a retail space. It almost feels like customers have moved on to something sleek, and that’s what they know. I just can’t think of any brand (that has national name recognition) that does quirky well. Maybe the closest would be Anthropologie.

It makes me think.

By the way, I didn’t post a photo of the very quirkiest element of this store. I was sort of struck, and it seemed like I was the only one in the store a little rattled by it … I think I took photos of it, but it seemed, well, “quirky.” And everyone else thought it was fine.

You can see in the store (I think I got them in the photos above) the “tree” like things that have tea cups on them. They do really capture a sense of whimsy.

On the far back wall, there is an image (large photo, obviously computer altered?) of a man wearing a tophat, kind of bending towards the tree with the cups. I was so entranced by the photo. I wanted to kiss the guy. The image looked so much like Johnny Depp. And it reminded me strongly of the role he played in Benny and Joon. Others around me didn’t seem to be as struck by the photo – so odd!! I had this temptation to really go up to it. Johnny Depp, are you there?

Sandra Trolinger November 16, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Beautiful store and I love their teas and drink them iced and hot. My favorites are their black tea and the chai.

Jackie November 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Love this post because many of us in the tea community have been following the news of the store opening, and especially the news of Starbucks’ purchase of Teavana with great interest. Since it’s too far away for most, your pics and write-up make an excellent substitute.
As to what I think about it? I’m envious certainly because we don’t have anything like it here. But the color scheme..not so sure. I agree with some comments here that it’s not exactly quirky. The design looks like very much like they’re playing it safe. Too safe maybe. To the point of being a bit dull. Either way – go ahead Starbucks open more Tazo stores. Or Teavana cafes. We need more places to drink tea period.

Taylor November 17, 2012 at 4:56 am

Yet another reason to visit Seattle again very soon!! I would love to see this store!

denise r November 17, 2012 at 7:26 am

Agree with @CD’s view points….at least as I interpret them. The place looks a bit ‘sterile’ to me and does look a bit like there should be sweaters or t-shirts on the shelves as opposed to any thing edible. ??? I know all the tea people will be happy, and while tea has been part of my life forever, sometimes more, sometimes less….. this just isn’t anything I would go out of my way for. I guess I like bright, rich colors with some depth and above all: coffee;)

AmazonV November 17, 2012 at 8:01 am

The look makes me think teavna and starbucks have been in talks a long time

it looks like a mall store (as people noted, a clothing store)

the new tazo blends and tazo website reflect a closer to teavana feel and flavors (of tea) than the original tazo

I would LOVE to visit and think it would be fun, i do wonder how they are going to handle two tea blends (for money savings i can’t see them keeping production separate, even if they keep the name different)

I hope this improves the teavana experience! (less pushy with sales, happier to make tea, yes those store make tea, they don’t advertise and are cranky sometimes to do it)

Hayley November 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

This store is lovely! It looks so tranquil inside and the cards are beautiful! I love the purple-y one :) I don’t know much about teas and have never ventured far into them like I have coffees. Every time I have drank tea…I just wanted it to be…well coffee, I guess. Just something stronger, perhaps. But if there were any place to get me interested in tea and find one I enjoy, this would certainly be it!!

Melody November 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm

@Hayley and anyone else – I posted so many photos above, but still not enough of this store. I think at some point I will have to do a second article on this store. I went back today and soaked it all in. I love this store. It’s weird but I realize that for the two ancillary brands Evolution Fresh and Tazo, well, I connect far better to Tazo than E.F. I like juice. I don’t think I LOVE juice. And I like tea a lot, but store has a lot more magic because there are so many side items to try. I bought some pearlized honey today, and that too would go in a second article. And I really do enjoy a nice cup of Chai, and thoroughly enjoyed a cup of chai at home yesterday with a little milk. And I love the sparkling iced teas. There is just a lot more for me to connect with here than at E.F. I might regret having posted this.

And in my photos above, I really did not capture the most whimsical aspects of the store. You can’t see the front of the store above, and when I saw it today in the daylight, I was entranced. And I have to get up a photo of the “johnny depp” image. I love that,

I feel like this store is very Benny and Joon inspired.

Johari November 21, 2012 at 12:17 am

I MUST have one of those Tazo Cards!

I cannot wait for a Tazo Tea store to open up in San Diego. There ARE a few Teavanas down here, so hopefully we’ll see some sooner than later through renovations. As a Teavana fan, I love Love LOVE the Strawberry Lemonade.

Melody November 21, 2012 at 6:27 am

@Johari – At some point pretty soon, I will do a giveaway for a Tazo card. :)

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