Tata Starbucks, a joint venture operating coffee shops across India, introduced Teavana Fine Teas at its 88 locations last week.
Teavana teas are available in 18 varieties in packages and at the counter. Starbucks previously offered eight teas at its stores.
Sumitro Ghosh, CEO of Tata Starbucks, in announcing the new line, said “We believe we can do for tea in India as we have done for coffee around the world—elevate the experience.” American-born Ghosh, who has headed Middle East and India operations the past year, said Teavana tea sales are up 12% worldwide following introduction of the brand in 16 markets in Europe and Asia.
“We are looking at attracting newer customers with our focus on tea, and are looking to double tea sales at our Starbucks stores,” Ghosh told the Hindustan Times. Indians currently drink an average of two cups per day, consuming approximately 900 million kilos annually.
The India expansion follows the introduction of Teavana at 6,200 locations in Asia and the Pacific island countries. Teavana says that it is “reimaging” tea in traditional tea-producing countries by adding flavors and juices and unusual blends, such as matcha with a dash of espresso.
Starbucks India tweeted news of a special India Spice Majesty Blend to 87,200 followers at launch. India blogger Hungry Forever, was typical of an enthusiastic response, reporting “we particularly loved the Iced Shaken Hibiscus Tea with Pomegranate Pearls; it was subtly sweet and incredibly refreshing and was infused with silky velvety pomegranate pearls which burst delightfully in our mouths.”
Industry observers were more reserved: “Purist tea consumption is all about brewing tea and India is a boiled tea consuming market,” marketing consultant Harish Bijoor told The Economic Times of India. “When you boil, the accent is on extracting volume and value, and when you brew, it is all about extracting flavor, aroma and taste,” he said, adding that “while the brewing market is high-value, the boiling market is high-volume. India is not yet a connoisseur’s tea market.”
Teavana teas are priced at $2.20 (INRs150) with the signature India Spice Majesty Blend priced at $4.35 (INRs295).
Tea is largely consumed in-home (90%) with most out-of-home consumers indicating a preference for coffee when the prices are roughly equivalent, observed Sumit Shah, managing director of TE-A-ME Teas.
Currently there are four national chains offering Western-style teas to Indian consumers. Demand is largely for chai but green tea, white tea, and more fruit and flavors are appearing at Chaayos, Chai Point, Tea Trails, Tea Point, and U.K.-based Costa Coffee, all of which continue to open new cafes.