My experience at Teavana.

For general/other topics related to tea.


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Jul 27th, '17, 23:17
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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by joelbct » Jul 27th, '17, 23:17

NateHevens wrote: I'll link to articles later (I'm on my phone), but Starbucks will be closing all Teavanas by spring of 2018. I still work here, and I have to admit... I don't know what to do with that... so we'll see...
Maybe they can un-shut-down SpecialTeas :?

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Jul 28th, '17, 01:54
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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by NateHevens » Jul 28th, '17, 01:54

victoria3 wrote:
NateHevens wrote: I'll link to articles later (I'm on my phone), but Starbucks will be closing all Teavanas by spring of 2018. I still work here, and I have to admit... I don't know what to do with that... so we'll see...
Coffee is more profitable -I'm guessing is the reason?
Yet tea is drunk way more often than coffee around the world. Isn't it the most-drunk drink, or am I wrong about that?

ETA: Besides... David's Tea, Adagio, Henley & Sons, etc are all doing pretty well as far as I can tell...

I think it has to do with the way Teavana does things... consistently behind with innovative teaware, mandatory purchase minimum of 2oz of tea (4oz for blends), rather small and unimaginative selection of pure teas, etc... if Starbucks just allowed Teavana to move forward with the times (more pure teas, abolish mandatory minimums, be more innovative with teaware, more honesty in types of tea and pricing, etc), Teavana might actually still be viable.

I don't know... it's hard, because I work here, and it's the first time I've ever faced the reality of losing a job because the company was closing. I've been fired a couple times, but more often then not I've just quit. Now I work for a company that faces imminent closure... that's very weird...

On the plus side, it means that, in the Spring or Summer of 2018, I'll be writing a tell-all of my experience with the company. That'll be fun... (no, it won't all be negative... there really is some good stuff, here)
Last edited by NateHevens on Jul 28th, '17, 02:00, edited 3 times in total.

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Jul 28th, '17, 01:56
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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by victoria3 » Jul 28th, '17, 01:56

NateHevens wrote:
victoria3 wrote:
NateHevens wrote: I'll link to articles later (I'm on my phone), but Starbucks will be closing all Teavanas by spring of 2018. I still work here, and I have to admit... I don't know what to do with that... so we'll see...
Coffee is more profitable -I'm guessing is the reason?
Yet tea is drunk way more often than coffee around the world. Isn't the most-drunk drink, or am I wrong about that?
Yes tea by far... so what's up

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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by NateHevens » Jul 28th, '17, 02:00

victoria3 wrote:
NateHevens wrote:
victoria3 wrote:
NateHevens wrote: I'll link to articles later (I'm on my phone), but Starbucks will be closing all Teavanas by spring of 2018. I still work here, and I have to admit... I don't know what to do with that... so we'll see...
Coffee is more profitable -I'm guessing is the reason?
Yet tea is drunk way more often than coffee around the world. Isn't the most-drunk drink, or am I wrong about that?
Yes tea by far... so what's up
See my edit...

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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by Teasenz » Aug 4th, '17, 03:30

I guess a coffee company should never run a tea company....it's a clash of cultures. I somehow feel that there's been always a disconnect between Teavana and the tea community.

Aug 4th, '17, 07:44
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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by ethan » Aug 4th, '17, 07:44

Teasenz wrote: I guess a coffee company should never run a tea company....it's a clash of cultures. I somehow feel that there's been always a disconnect between Teavana and the tea community.
We don't even know that Starbucks wanted to run a tea company. There is a chance that the purchase was for experimentation with an eye to finding a few pieces of what they bought worth keeping and for killing off a fairly big competitor in the beverage business. What is clear that the owners of Teavana got very rich. Big business baffles me.

Kraft Foods bought Postum to get it off supermarket shelves but would not admit it. It took more than several years for Kraft to even answer a question about the product and then more time for Kraft to sell the formula though it refused to sell the equipment that made the blend of ingredients perfectly. Postum is only available online now and costs much more than it did in supermarkets before Kraft took away a product that was successful for over 100 years. Snapple was making major marketing mistakes; so, one might assume when it was bought that corrections would be made by a buyer who paid so much for the company. E.g. getting its delicious vanilla soda to the stores in quantity as they wanted. Instead Snapple soda quickly disappeared............And of course, Coca-Cola is famous for protecting its formula; however, for the USA it took out the sugar and replaced it with corn syrup and a lot of nonsense ensued which included ignoring the wishes of tens of millions of people who drank coke daily and spending millions of dollars advertising to replace lost customers with new ones. Seems stupid but Coke prospers.

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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by NateHevens » Aug 4th, '17, 12:02

ethan wrote:
Teasenz wrote: I guess a coffee company should never run a tea company....it's a clash of cultures. I somehow feel that there's been always a disconnect between Teavana and the tea community.
We don't even know that Starbucks wanted to run a tea company. There is a chance that the purchase was for experimentation with an eye to finding a few pieces of what they bought worth keeping and for killing off a fairly big competitor in the beverage business. What is clear that the owners of Teavana got very rich. Big business baffles me.

Kraft Foods bought Postum to get it off supermarket shelves but would not admit it. It took more than several years for Kraft to even answer a question about the product and then more time for Kraft to sell the formula though it refused to sell the equipment that made the blend of ingredients perfectly. Postum is only available online now and costs much more than it did in supermarkets before Kraft took away a product that was successful for over 100 years. Snapple was making major marketing mistakes; so, one might assume when it was bought that corrections would be made by a buyer who paid so much for the company. E.g. getting its delicious vanilla soda to the stores in quantity as they wanted. Instead Snapple soda quickly disappeared............And of course, Coca-Cola is famous for protecting its formula; however, for the USA it took out the sugar and replaced it with corn syrup and a lot of nonsense ensued which included ignoring the wishes of tens of millions of people who drank coke daily and spending millions of dollars advertising to replace lost customers with new ones. Seems stupid but Coke prospers.
I think Starbucks was genuinely interested in running a tea company at first. I say that because in 2012, after the purchase, Teavana suddenly got better for a couple years. It started going downhill when Starbucks tried to apply their frankly flawed philosophy to it.

What I mean is... I do enjoy Starbucks because I like the coffee-based drinks they offer. I don't like black coffee to begin with (I am extremely sensitive to bitter taste and so don't like it... I've never had black coffee, from anywhere, with any roast and brew method, that isn't grossly bitter to me), so I enjoy Starbucks' flavored coffee drinks. And all those cappuccinos and lattes and mochas and frappuccinos and so on do extremely well for Starbucks (obviously).

The problem is that tea is not coffee, and pure teas are actually becoming more popular in the States as time goes on (even in the South, where Southern Style Sweet Tea used to dominate, pure, unsweetened tea is becoming bigger). But Starbucks attempted to put a focus on flavored teas (many of them good, to be entirely fair... I love a lot of their flavored blends and fruit tisanes, a couple of their dessert tisanes, and their Chamomile Bloom) to the detriment of the pure teas. Plus, they started getting rid of Teavana's "traditional" image (getting rid of the fancy cast-iron and bone china tea sets and such) in favor of "appealing to Millenials", for some reason ignoring the fact that Millenials appreciate authenticity... so it comes across as if the people at the top trying to "appeal to Millenials" are Baby Boomers who don't actually know enough about Millenials to attempt to "appeal" to them.

Starbucks also never actually listened to complaints about the pushy sales tactics customers had about Teavana. About a year ago, as I reported in this thread, it seemed like they had listened, but it's become obvious they hadn't at all, because we've reverted back to those old pushy sales tactics (although I admit that I'm not sure how much of that was Starbucks over Teavana and how much of that is my current manager, who really would make a great used car salesman).

So I don't think Starbucks was deliberately trying to kill the brand (because if that were the case, why haven't they gone after Adagio, David's Tea, Harney & Sons, etc?). I think Starbucks just tried to apply their coffee-drink philosophy to tea, and that's not actually what tea-drinkers are looking for.

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Re: RE: Re: My experience at Teavana.

by joelbct » Aug 4th, '17, 15:03

NateHevens wrote:(I am extremely sensitive to bitter taste and so don't like it... I've never had black coffee, from anywhere, with any roast and brew method, that isn't grossly bitter to me)
Are you a supertaster?

I've been curious about the connection between a highly developed taste for certain teas (or wine, coffee, whiskey, etc), and supertasters.

Maybe not much overlap, due to the sensitivity to bitterness, but I've also read that supertasters commonly work as food scientists/researchers.

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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by john.b » Aug 6th, '17, 23:00

ethan wrote:
We don't even know that Starbucks wanted to run a tea company. There is a chance that the purchase was for experimentation with an eye to finding a few pieces of what they bought worth keeping and for killing off a fairly big competitor in the beverage business. What is clear that the owners of Teavana got very rich. Big business baffles me.

It's an interesting line of thought, even though we would never be able to move past speculation in considering it. If I'm reading the recent articles correctly Starbucks is making a good return on Teavana by selling more tea products in their stores, and it could work out well for them to essentially kill off what Teavana had been only to retain a new product line in coffee shops. They probably did want to see if they could make loose tea shops and tea cafes work, but they may have went into it knowing that if that didn't happen they would probably still be ok adding some loose teas, blends, and more tea gear to coffee shops.

The part about a potential conspiracy theory is intriguing, and not necessarily definitely wrong. It's hard to imagine they would see tea as that much of a threat that they would want to take down the main proponent. It seems more plausible that these corporations are crunching the numbers a few different ways and seeing an opportunity, and then botching running businesses based on unfamiliar product types. That's at least to the extent that closing mall shops while still making a profit on the company purchase overall is interpreted as a lack of success. Trying out cafes earlier in addition to loose tea shops--which more or less failed at the beginning of last year--would seem to indicate the interest was genuine in making tea work.

It seems informative that Unilever followed an identical pattern in buying T2, the Australian version of Teavana (more or less). They also moved from selling mostly better loose teas to selling mostly blends, in what looks like an effort to get the numbers to add up, to cover overhead by selling lower cost product alternatives at similar selling points. It could be that I've got that completely wrong, that demand pulled them in that direction, that better loose teas were just sitting around while blends were moving, and it wasn't mostly about margin. From a tea enthusiast's point of view it could look like a bad faith effort of sorts, that they are missing the real opportunity to promote and sell better teas. But it's hard to say for sure that it would really work to do that in a corporate chain, to challenge online sources in selling better quality tea head-on and make it work.

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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by ethan » Aug 7th, '17, 02:21

I was talking about tea in the locker room of the YMCA in Boston where I swim, when a man there asked me if I would like to be in a newspaper article. He is a freelance reporter who thought he could sell an article about a local tea merchant. He backed out of the article when he learned that I was not packaging my own blends. In the "buy local" movement there are many people packaging ground coffee, combining ground beans from a few sources and showing "great creativity" with their names for various blends. The freelancer thought I would do something similar with tea and had no interest or appreciation for my efforts to source great tea.
I mention this as an example of assumptions made by individuals about what the public cares about. Just because there is a proliferation of blends available, it does not mean that people love them. There might be so many new ones because there is so little satisfaction with them on the whole. People's cupboards are filled with boxes of tea that don't get emptied but joined by new blends. Is that love for blends or mild desperation?

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Re: My experience at Teavana.

by Bok » Aug 7th, '17, 02:54

ethan wrote: I mention this as an example of assumptions made by individuals about what the public cares about. Just because there is a proliferation of blends available, it does not mean that people love them. There might be so many new ones because there is so little satisfaction with them on the whole. People's cupboards are filled with boxes of tea that don't get emptied but joined by new blends. Is that love for blends or mild desperation?
I think it is way easier than that. Most people lack the senses/experience to appreciate the difference between a very good, wholesome product(drink or food), nor would they care. It would be throwing pearls to the pigs (German saying), we tend to forget that we are among tea geeks around here, special interest in our little corner.

Teavana and others (Starbucks as well for that matter), are just the McDonalds of tea and coffee, give the masses what they want :mrgreen:

If good tea would become en vogue we would all be scrambling to get any tea at all with all the competition… not enough good tea out there and curse the day it became popular :wink:

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Re: RE: Re: My experience at Teavana.

by NateHevens » Aug 17th, '17, 23:05

joelbct wrote:
NateHevens wrote:(I am extremely sensitive to bitter taste and so don't like it... I've never had black coffee, from anywhere, with any roast and brew method, that isn't grossly bitter to me)
Are you a supertaster?

I've been curious about the connection between a highly developed taste for certain teas (or wine, coffee, whiskey, etc), and supertasters.

Maybe not much overlap, due to the sensitivity to bitterness, but I've also read that supertasters commonly work as food scientists/researchers.
I have no idea. I definitely never tried to work as a food scientist/researcher, although I will admit that I'm definitely a foodie and an amateur/wannabe "chef" (I have no intentions of going professional because if I work in a restaurant kitchen in the US, with my major issues with stress, anxiety, and anger, I'll probably end up going to prison for assault and battery... or worse).

It is odd that I love tea as much as I do, because it does seem as if astringency is a prized flavor, whereas I'm trying to avoid it wherever possible. To be honest, I actually hate that I'm so sensitive to bitter, because I'd actually like to be able to drink coffee black, eat darker chocolate (I hate milk chocolate... too creamy; I like my chocolate dark and dairy free, but very very sweet), be able to increase my tea palate, enjoy beer, enjoy wine, and so on. But I can't.

And it sucks...

Anyways...

For Teavana... like I said above, I don't think Starbucks intended to kill off Teavana from the start. I think Starbucks wanted to open up to a new market, but because they insisted on treating tea the way they treat coffee, it failed.

And actually, it seems that confusion (lumping tea and coffee together) is not unique to Starbucks. If you knew how many people we get who genuinely believe that you brew loose-leaf tea the way ypu brew coffee, you would all rage-quit the planet. It's infuriating...

Just today I had someone come in and, after asking how loose-leaf tea works (they've only ever had bagged tea), said "but why can't I just put it in a filter in my coffee-maker and run the water through it? That seems easier."

I then had to gently explain to him what tea is on a very basic level... it's not coffee. It has to steep. My manager was gobsmacked.

The guy did end up spending a pretty nice amount of money, which is great, but still... it's like...

And we get these kinds of people all the time. People who want to know if we sell our teas in k-cups, people who think you just poor boiling water through the leaves... (separate note: I actually love k-cups... since I mostly drink coffee for the caffeine rather than the flavor, I don't care so much about the quality... I just need a quick cup; but k-cup teas? I cannot express in words how angry that makes me.)

I genuinely had a customer once (not the same guy as the one I mentioned above) who thought tea was made from the leaves of the coffee plant. He literally thought they were that close to being the same thing. Like...

What?

So the fact that Starbucks tried to treat tea with the same philosophy they treat coffee doesn't surprise me. That confusion seems to be extremely common here in the States.

I think what ultimately killed Teavana is that, in the end, Starbucks just didn't know what to do with it. I'm sad, because... honestly? I think Teavana gets a bad rap in the tea world. I definitely understand why and so many of the reasons why are 100% legitimately. But Teavana, whether we like it or not, was the stepping-stone for first-timers looking to get off bagged tea. And it was the main place for people who drink tea, but aren't obsessed with it.

Take away Teavana being over-priced, customer service being pushy and damn-near desperate, not the highest quality, and even reliance on flavored tea over pure tea... Teavana actually served a purpose. I saw this with my own two eyes. People are actually contacting Starbucks to register their complaints about the closure. So Teavana is definitely serving a market. And I was lucky, because in my position, I could introduce people to tea and hint that they should research more, potentially turning first-timers into tea nerds like us.

The tea world is losing that, now. It's losing that stepping stone, that middle-ground for the people who want better tea, but aren't obsessed enough to want what we here want. I think the closure is actually going to hurt the tea market more than any of us think it will, to be completely honest.

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