Interview: Daniele Monti on Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea

by: Jessica Sanchez, Editor, The Dieline

oprahchai_1When I saw the launch of Teavana® Oprah Chai at Starbucks, there were three immediate things I had to do: 1. Look at the packaging, inside and out. The textures, the colors, structure, and the collection as a whole; 2. Text my team and tell them about this packaging, which they had already seen and wanted to know more information about; 3. Try the tea itself.  The tea was spectacular, and the packaging was as welll!

We later found out about our local Teavana® Tea Shop in Beverly Hills and decided to attend the opening. We received more insight on Teavana® Tea, the new shops opening in major metropolitan cities across the country, and more information about this first-of-its-kind collaboration with Oprah.  We did a Behind the Design article in the past with Daniele Monti, the VP of Creative – Teavana® and Emerging Brands at Starbucks Coffee Company, and reached out to him about this collaboration and the involvement he had creating the packaging with none other then Oprah herself. We all know Oprah is an unabashed chai tea lover, she swears by her Chai. If you ever watch OWN you know her rituals with chai tea, so it only made sense that a collaboration like this would emerge.

Like everything Oprah does it was important to have her signature look and feel. Daniele explains his involvement with the packaging, the details and how this is not simply a product endorsement. Oprah was really passionate about making this tea and making a difference in communities. Starbucks will make a donation for each Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea product sold in participating Starbucks and Teavana stores, to benefit educational opportunities for youth through the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation

Howard_Schultz_and_Oprah_Winfrey_celebrating_with_Teavana_Oprah_Chai_Tea_(1)Teavana Oprah Chai:
In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Starbucks and Oprah Winfrey co-created Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea, which is available in participating Starbucks and Teavana stores in the U.S. Working with Teavana’s leading teaologist Naoko Tsunoda, Oprah personally developed her own distinctive blend of tea. The new Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea features a bold infusion of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves, blended with loose-leaf black tea and rooibos. As part of this new core offering, Starbucks makes a donation for each Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea product sold in participating Starbucks and Teavana stores, to benefit educational opportunities for youth through the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.

For more about the partnership and product, please visit:

For more about the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation and benefiting charities, please visit: 

Interview with Daniele Monti – VP of Creative – Teavana and Emerging Brands at Starbucks Coffee Company.

Jessica: So tell me about working with OPRAH! We are big fans of her here at The Dieline. Well I can tell you, I am a BIG FAN of Oprah. What was it like working with her? 

Daniele Monti: As you can imagine she is a force of positive energy. She has a way of doing things that is just contagiously fun. But don’t get me wrong: she knows what she wants and what she doesn’t and no detail is too small for her. She was involved in every regard to this packaging and provided feedback so accurate and perfectly articulated that in the end, it made our job easier and more pleasant.

Gift-set-(large)-with-tea-pot_-two-glasses-and-reusuable-storage-tinJessica: What was the design process like? How much involvement did Oprah have on the package design? What time frame did you have from concept to completion?

Daniele Monti: Like is said, she was very involved at a personal level and she participated in design reviews just like a “normal” client would with any design firm. This never felt like hurdle to us, to the contrary, it felt like she was able to provide feedback on design as if it was something she does daily. It was truly amazing. This isn’t simply a product endorsement: she created Teavana Oprah Chai with our tea experts in our labs because she is passionate about tea and wanted to make a difference in communities. It makes perfect sense that she wanted to stay very close to the packaging as well.

Jessica: Will there be any special Holiday packaging we should expect with Oprah Chai? or any new Chai’s or tea’s with the Oprah name?

Daniele Monti: Oprah Chai will certainly be featured in our Starbucks and Teavana stores this Holiday…

Jessica: Anything interesting or something that you learned from working with Oprah that you can tell all our readers? 

Daniele Monti: Her passion for life is contagious. After spending even just an hour with her you feel energized. And the best part: I have done this for a few decades now and I can tell fairly accurately when someone is considering design merely secondary to the larger idea. That was not the case. Oprah IS a design person and I could tell that she genuinely loved working with us in the Studio.

Jessica: Any other collaborations we should be expecting from Teavana? 

Daniele Monti: This is just the beginning for tea at Starbucks and the extensions you’ll see both inside and outside of our stores. With four Tea Bars and more to come, we’re just getting started…

Jessica: I recently visited the Teavana Tea Shop in Beverly Hills and it is a such a wonderful concept and beautifully designed store! What can you tell me about the tea shop? The design? 

Daniele Monti: Yes, another beautiful iteration of our Tea Bar concept that Tobi Wray and her team in store-design have developed. This is our fourth Tea Bar and there are tweaks and learnings from each one of them that we want to implement or respond to.

In general, the concept doesn’t change.  Our objective is to create the perfect marriage between a Café experience with amazing handcrafted tea beverages and delicious food  pairings with our unique collection of loose leaf teas and curated accessories and gift boxes.  That said, with every new store, we will revisit the customer experience to refine these aspects and make sure we unleash the full potential of the store based on the layout, location or even just the type of customer that will visit us.

Jessica: How is the Tazo Tea brand doing now that Teavana is in the Starbucks family? How is Teavana different than Tazo tea? What should we expect from Tazo Tea now?

Daniele Monti: Tea has been a part of Starbucks heritage since 1971, when we were founded as Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices. With a vision to create new and innovative ways to delight tea drinkers and continue growing the overall tea category, Starbucks acquired Tazo in 1999 and in 2012 acquired Teavana. Having both Tazo and Teavana as part of Starbucks family of brands provides us with a unique opportunity to deliver new premium, personalized experiences to tea drinkers. We believe that by defining a new elevated platform of tea experience and education, both brands can grow and complement one another while elevating the entire category.

Reprinted with Permission. (Sanchez, J. “Interview: Daniele Monti on Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea“, The Dieline, June 2014)