Monday, July 02, 2012

Starbucks to Open Tea Shop in Seattle

Hmm...I haven't quite sorted out my opinion on this yet.  Starbucks (parent company of Tazo) is planning to open a Tazo tea store in Seattle this fall.  The store will sell loose tea and will showcase a "blend-your-own" concept, where customers can experiment with various teas concoctions of their own making. 

I'm intrigued by the blending station opportunities.  Yet I notice a feeling of unease with mega-retailers.  I dislike the impact to local businesses and local economies.  With MBA hat on, I know that the goal for these large companies is profit and growth, not civics.  I'm certain Starbucks wishes to be a good corporate citizen, and they would claim the two (profit/growth and civics) can live hand-in-hand. 

If I have the chance, I will check out the Tazo tea shop when it's open.  I'm sure it will be well-done and visually appealing.  Questions I would pose for the Tazo tea managers to consider:
  • How will you invest locally - both in US communities, and in the tea-growing regions where you procure?
  • Who are your tea buyers?  Do they have tea-industry credibility?
  • How will you educate your customers about tea (and the herbal tisanes) that you carry?
  • Is there a way your tea shop can help lead people (especially young consumers) away from unhealthy sugary drinks?
What are your thoughts about this, blog readers?

PS - I'm taking a little "Meatless Monday" blogging break.  Will be doing some traveling and so forth that makes it hard to post every Monday.  I'll be posting at a more organic (ha ha) pace on this topic.


Marilyn said...

Good questions, Steph!
I had wondered about the educating of customers and wondered if they would take this into consideration when hiring. What training is the employee going to have? Hummm? is right. Hope it is open when attending the NW Tea Festival, it would be a worth a stop.


Steph, you are awesome!

Nick Herman said...

I'll be happy when a retailer--mega, micro, or otherwise, actually opens a shop dedicated to high quality tea accompanied by deserving fanfare. Tazo, or the blending of various Asian discards, is not the answer, any more than Budweiser is. Education is, though. But it takes time and jumping cultural hurdles.

Angela McRae said...

Excellent and thought-provoking post! I think my main question would concern the quality of their teas. With a few exceptions, I just don't think Tazo teas taste very good. That said, the blending station would lure me in!

Alex Zorach said...

I also share your concern about how big, national and multinational businesses can harm small, locally-owned businesses.

One additional concern that I have about companies like Starbucks / Tazo, is that, by focusing on blending and marketing, the company is shifting a greater portion of the price the customer pays, into the "value added" part of the tea industry, so that less of it goes to the producer.

I think that in general, the more a company focuses on blending, the less it focuses on the quality of the pure tea itself, and I think that high-quality pure tea is where the largest portion of the skill (and thus profit) resides with the producer. So blending kind of works against the spirit of movements like fair trade.

I do think though that if this company is drawing in its new customers and new sales from people who would otherwise be drinking more artificial, sugary drinks, then I think it will be making a positive impact.

Steph said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments!