Tazo Tea Store Opens in Seattle


Lavishly appointed in a trendy location ideal for attracting up-scale shoppers, the Tazo Tea Store opened to a warm reception on a drizzly Friday in Seattle.

Perfect weather for a cup of tea.

The brand’s image, dated and a bit archaic from the onset with its mystic heritage and Medieval alchemy, has an entirely new look. Elegant scroll, a clean font and logo elevate the teabag brand to premium loose leaf.

Seattle’s University Village mall is the perfect location for the spacious, brightly lit merchandise-friendly layout. Custom display and lighting fixtures, a new take on the traditional tea wall and a unique blending station in 1700 sq. ft. layout set this store apart.

The opening, a day after Starbucks announced that it had purchased rival Teavana, invites comparison and led Charles Cain, Tazo VP of Merchant and Operations, to observe that both formats will evolve. Starbucks announced it will market tea in two-tiers similar to its approach to Seattle’s Best and the flagship brand. There is good reason to preserve the Teavana model. The company is one of the most profitable specialty retailers in America earning almost $1000 per square foot with sales growing by 38% last quarter. Sales average $40 per customer, significantly more than any Starbucks in the land.

The Tazo Tea Store was designed to move merchandise like a Williams Sonoma showroom but what will bring customers into the store is an innovative blending station that invites novices and connoisseurs alike to create their own custom blend.

While tossing tea and your favorite ingredients into a stainless steel mixing bowl looks easy blending tea is deceptively complex. The genius of Tazo is that it looks easy and tastes great. Customers drawn to the action first explore the half dozen teas and ingredients, such as coconut, lemon grass, chamomile and lavender that are used to add a finishing taste note.


The challenge for retailers is to make the choices seem infinite while managing the number of combinations. Tazo’s secret is to create a base of pre-blended flavors that are enhanced with natural oils and essence necessary to a pleasing cup.

Retailers like DavidsTea or Teavana that sell peach or apple cinnamon or strawberry do their blending behind the scenes with machinery that lightly sprays the tea with oils and mixes flakes and shreds of natural products such as orange rind.

At Tazo customers “add a teaspoon” of this or “two teaspoons” of that and watch as the blender tosses into the air. The customers enjoy a moment of Table Theater while plying the blender with questions that lead to a greater understanding of tea. All ingredients are priced the same and the resulting blends are sold in four-ounce packets for under $12.

Tea Wall

Stainless steel drawers, sealed and etched with the Tazo scroll are color coded. There are nine styles of tea: black, green, herbal, white, oolong, chai, pu-erh, Rooibos, Mate. There are also two collections, one for sophisticated tea enthusiasts and the other, labeled Well Being teas are marketed “to keep your body and spirit flourishing.”


Examples include Relief, Rest, Thrive, Settle and Luminesce, a blend of White tea, lime peel, dandelion leaves, black Darjeeling tea, cucumber, peppermint, lemon verbena, natural flavors and lime essence oil.

These teas are “crafted especially to uplift, comfort or just send you on a flight of fancy,” reads the in-store placard.

The tins themselves are worthy of note with a distinctive knob on the top of a circular opening. The opening insures a better seal than traditional tins and the packaging includes a caffeine scale.

Cain explained that many teas are deceptively rich in caffeine and no stereotype holds true. Some black teas for example have low caffeine content and some greens are very high. A five point scale printed on every tin indicates the amount of caffeine which is based on extensive testing of the blend.

Retail Excellence

The Tazo Tea Store offers a loyalty card that is integrated into the Starbucks program. What’s more, every person who has ever bought Tazo tea at a Starbucks is already in the database. The cards are branded with the new look but reflect the time-tested marketing power of Starbucks.

The Point of Sales system is very sophisticated. Video cameras track the movement and evaluate how long customers linger in front of displays. The team responsible for assembling the holiday gift packs is certainly gifted with a sense of elegance and style. Translucent stirring spoons, distinctive mugs and utensils are branded.

Even the hot water dispensers which deliver three temperatures (175-195 and 205 degrees) are stainless steel and Italian made. Tea is brewed in glass handle three-cup Chemex urns that sit on a lighted display counter. Brewing is timed and the tea makers are skilled, studying the color of the steeped tea, sniffing the leaves and consulting with others on the team when something seems amiss. Cups sell for $2.45.

The catalog is extensive with 80 teas, some quite special (and more costly) listed to please connoisseurs and designated “the Tazo Collection.” Examples include Jasmine Dragon Pearls ($14.95 2 oz.) a Japanese Gyokuro ($14.95 2 oz.) and Phoenix Mountain Oolong ($19.95 2 oz.)

Tazo completely reworked its website and carefully integrated the experience with the retail store.

Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.