Tag Archives: Starbucks

What If Tea Was More Popular Than Coffee in America?

Today, I’d like to address the coffee drinkers. Hello from the other side!

Chai Tea Chick; coffee drinkers
Photo by chichacha / CC BY 2.0

As the majority in America, you guys have it good. There are 100 million daily coffee drinkers in our great nation, and coffee is like the life blood of our civilization. Every workplace has a pot of coffee; every street corner has either a Starbucks or specialty coffee shop.

For tea drinkers like myself, those luxuries don’t exist. Tea is growing in popularity, but it is still firmly number two behind coffee. I’m not sure you understand just how good you have it, so today I’d like to take you on a hypothetical journey that will show you what it’s like from the tea drinker’s perspective—what it’s like to live in a world where you favorite hot beverage is the less popular choice.

Imagine you wake up one Monday morning, groggily hitting the snooze button and barely able to get out of bed. The only thing that motivates you is the promise of a refreshing cup of coffee. When you get to the pantry, though, you notice all your coffee is gone, replaced by canisters of loose-leaf tea.

Tea is fine, but it’s not going to give you that extra boost of caffeine, and you don’t really know how to make it anyway. You quickly get ready for work and decide to make a pit stop at the nearby Starbucks.

Photo by Ivana Di CarloCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

You get in line at the shop, already knowing what you’re going to order, but as you stand there, you start to realize something’s off. You sniff the air and notice the familiar smell of freshly brewed coffee is gone. Then, you start to listen to people’s drink orders, and they aren’t Venti Caramel Macchiatos or Tall White Chocolate Mochas. No, they’re ordering Gingseng Oolong Lan Gui Wren, Pu-erh Loose-Leaf, and Lapsang Souchong. These words sound like gibberish to you.

In doubt, you ask the barista for a Venti Americano.

“Oh,” he says, the judgment clear in his voice, “we only sell a regular coffee brew and iced coffee latte.”

You order the regular coffee, but as you gulp it down, you really wish you were drinking the espresso-flavored goodness of an Americano.

Later in the day, you go out to lunch with your coworkers at your favorite Cuban restaurant, which usually serves the best espresso in town. After the entrees, everyone is ordering tea with their desserts. You, of course, still desperately want an espresso, but you’re feeling unsure after this morning, so you decide to just order regular coffee. You know they must have that.

The coffee they give you is so bad, though, that you almost spit it out. It tastes burnt and stale, as if it had sat neglected in a corner for hours. You swirl the coffee around, and the scorched smell infiltrates your nose, almost as if the coffee is mocking you with its scent. Meanwhile, your tea-drinking friends each have individual pots of freshly brewed loose-leaf and are sipping their tea with delight.

“This isn’t fair,” you think as you scarf down the rest of your disgusting cup of coffee, “This is madness.”

So, coffee drinkers, how did that make you feel?

Yes, as nightmarish as this scenario seems, this is the reality for people who only drink tea in America. In our coffee culture, we face limited options, we often have to drink low-quality tea, and we are looked at suspiciously for wanting to have tea instead of coffee. Tea culture is small, practically nonexistent, in America, and tea drinkers just have to learn how to live in a world of coffee.

One day I hope coffee and tea will reach a balance, and that you will be able to order your Venti Americano and I, my Lapsang Oolong, and we will share lattes with love in our hearts.

Photo by protographer23 / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Until then, consider yourself lucky, and make sure you hug the next barista you see.


Why I Don’t Shop at Teavana

Chai Tea Chick; Teavana; Teavana criticism
Photo by Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Teavana is quickly becoming the face of tea in America. The chain has more than 300 stores in 46 states, and it was acquired by Starbucks last year, which plans to use the chain to create “tea bars” across America.

While that’s a lovely idea, I think Teavana needs to re-think its marketing and sales strategy if it wants to ultimately be successful in the tea industry. Why? I’m a huge tea lover, I live right by a Teavana store, and I never shop there.

It’s not that I don’t want to shop at Teavana. The store has some interesting tea blends and good quality tools, like the tea maker I mentioned in a previous post. Teavana should be a must in my life.

But I don’t go there for two reasons: uncomfortable upselling tactics and pricing.

Chai Tea Chick; Teavana; Teavana criticism
Photo by Pavel Trebukov / CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Teavana is constantly engaging in upselling strategies designed to get more money out of customers. The most commons tactics involve trying to sell you more expensive products and add-ons.

If you want to buy a tea infuser for $15, they’ll try to sell you a steamer for $30. If you want to get the chai tea that is $7 per ounce, they’ll try to make you blend it with another $10 chai. If you want 2 ounces of tea, they’ll put 2.5 ounces in the bag and ask if it’s OK that they went a little over.

Going into Teavana can make you feel like a bug that has unknowingly flown into a spider’s web. The first time I went to one I was so excited. A tea store that only sells loose-leaf and a bunch of cool tea products? Sounds awesome. When I left the store, though, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to go back.

I started my Teavana experience by trying the tea samples at the store front. Quickly I was approached by an employee with an overeager smile, who steered me toward Teavana’s many expensive appliances, even though I told him I was only interested in a certain chai tea.

After I turned down all those products, he moved me over to the Wall of Tea, where he spent 10 minutes waving aromas of the most expensive teas in my face. I only wanted a cheaper tea, but he made me feel so guilty that I ended up spending $30 on four ounces of tea.

Speaking of price, which is my second main reason for not shopping at Teavana, I was shocked by how expensive the tea was. In my experience, loose-leaf is generally not that pricey. Teavana’s loose-leaf costs about $7 to $9 per ounce, while the tea I buy from a local tea shop costs $7.50 for six ounces. 

As I was writing this post, I went online to see if anyone shared this same experience, and I am not alone. Reddit’s tea community dislikes the store for its pushy sales tactics and overpriced items. I also read this eye-opening post from an ex-employee of Teavana that showed the store is focused on high-pressure sales and trains employees to essentially trick customers into buying more.

Photo by Inhabitat Blog / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

I think Teavana can do better, and I hope Starbucks changes how this chain is run. As a public relations student, I think the store is poorly managing both its customer and employee relations. Not only do customers often feel uncomfortable there, but I’m sure employees dislike the constant push from management to upsell. This is what I think Teavana should do instead:

Drop the high-pressure sales. Focus on what each individual customer wants. Be our friends. Give us advice. Show us your fancy gadgets, but don’t push them on us. If you build up trust with tea drinkers, we will be your loyal customers and engage with your employees willingly. The bottom line: when it comes to tea, it’s all about community.

This strategy may not lead to the immediate sales created by a pressured environment, but it will foster relationships that will generate more revenue and goodwill over time. And if Teavana becomes a more tea-friendly store, you might just see the Chai Tea Chick perusing its shelves once again.

What have your experiences been like with Teavana? I’m curious. Let me know in the comments.