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Updated Friday, November 16, 2012 at 09:01 AM

Starbucks’ Tazo takes first sip as tea store

By Melissa Allison
Seattle Times business reporter

Two days after announcing its $620 million acquisition of the retail tea chain Teavana, Starbucks opened what was expected to be the first of many stores centered on its tea brand, Tazo.

But the Tazo opening Friday in University Village might end up being the brand’s only retail location. Executives said they are not sure whether there will be more, but they do plan to expand Teavana’s mall-based network and add non-mall locations.

Tazo’s 1,700-square-foot store in University Village is a shabby chic collection of grays and greens, with an off-white chandelier at its center and clear jars of teas on its shelves.

The floor is devoted more to selling tea for home brewing than to in-store tea drinking.

It includes 80 loose-leaf teas and a blending station for customers to create their own with ingredients ranging from rooibos to marigold petals.

A small tea-barista bar at the back will serve hot and iced tea, tea lattes and sparkling tea drinks steeped and carbonated while you wait. A 12-ounce brewed tea runs $2.45; a regular latte is $3.45.

“We’re encouraging the customer to slow down a little bit,” said Charles Cain, who led the store’s creation.

It takes 2 to 5 minutes just to steep the teas, he said. That leaves time for customers to browse or be shown the tea-making process.

The store is Starbucks’ second non-coffee concept. The Seattle-based chain opened Evolution Fresh juice stores in Seattle, Bellevue and San Francisco this year and has a fourth opening at University Village on Monday.

The shopping center also has two Starbucks stores.

Starbucks bought Tazo in 1999 for $8.1 million.

Co-founder Steve Smith, also co-founder of Stash Tea, became known at Tazo for creating blends with emotive names such as Awake and Calm and that cost twice as much as other teas.

Tazo’s operations recently moved from Portland to Starbucks’ roasting and packaging plant in Kent.

Separately, on Thursday, Starbucks said its board authorized the repurchase of up to 25 million common shares. That’s in addition to the 12.1 million shares that remained available for repurchase Sept. 30 under a previous authorization.

The company’s shares fell 41 cents to $48.43. They have traded between $40.75 and $62 a share the past year.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Twitter @AllisonSeattle.


Photos by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times
Starbucks opens its first Tazo tea store Friday in Seattle’s University Village. The floor is devoted more to selling tea for home brewing than to in-store tea drinking. The company isn’t sure if it will expand the concept.




The Seattle Times
Tea partner James Oestreich organizes a display at the Tazo store. A small tea-barista bar at the back will serve beverages.




Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times




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