My visits to the many Teavana’s around the country usually left me feeling, “If you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all”.
The focus when I visit is on the tea ware and what new tea gadget or unique display item can I purchase for my ever-expanding collection.
I had great expectations when the teashops opened in New York, being aware of this competitive marketplace; I was sorely disappointed in both the size of the locations (not as large as some I have visited outside of NYC or in a mall), in addition the staff left something to be desired with the ever-present suggestions of sugary concoctions or items I did not want or need.
When I humbly explained my preference “straight up no chaser” they were hard pressed to make suggestions and still offered blends and herbals.
The Teavana Tea Bar with its “new” approach promises a very different experience.
The atmosphere envelops you in an upscale sense of calm, with inviting displays of loose-leaf tea adorning the walls.
A museum-like tea installation where you can actually immerse yourself in the “painting” and purchase the print.
Even someone without a “passion for tea” would be tempted to inquire about the many offerings.
The ceiling is also adds to the mood adorned with clear pipe-like installations filled with tea.
The brewing equipment by developed by BKON, utilizes Reverse Atmospheric Infusion tm , with this vacuuming process the tea leaves are infused using negative pressure where water infuses the leaves to expose more leaf surface. This process is repeated 3 times in about 60 seconds and brews over 90 cups in an hour. With this procedure, it is said, the flavor components are drawn out somewhat similar to a low temperature boil and results in a balanced, consistent brew.
I had seen this machine exhibited at the World Tea Expo last year, and with my keen interest in tea brewing equipment, asked when the at home version would be ready for the consumer market.
What caught my interest was the programmability of the machine that brings consistency to the brew in quick measure.
When getting an overview from Charles Cain, Vice President of Concept Development, he explained the testing/tasting process and I realized it was much more involved than I had imagined getting the right measure. The proof was in the Oolong that was made for our tasting right on the spot, and yes I was impressed at the short time it took to make the tea.
The visually attractive food offerings were also inviting, a combination of signature pastries, healthful breakfast options, signature flatbreads, freshly tossed salads, small plates and sweets and yes there are macarons on the menu.
The beverage offerings are many; tea lattes, specialty tea lattes (CocoCaramel Sea Salt Latte, Blackberry Mojito Lime Cooler), loose leaf teas from the featured teas or tea wall, both signature and rare teas are offered, tea flights (special daily offerings), iced teas, specialty iced teas, and craft tea infusions to which chia seeds or coconut lychee jelly can be added at an additional cost.
I sampled the Sparkling Silver Needle which had a good aroma and tingle when sipped a nice alternative to a cocktail without the alcohol and I could do without the sugar.
Also in my tasting cup was Apple Oolong Chia Fresca. Apple was at the forefront of this sip slowly evolving to lovely oolong notes accented by chia seeds.
As you can see the simple cup of tea is about to change and the tea bag may have met its match.
Charles and I spoke extensively about Teavana’s entry into the marketplace, as well as the vision and concept. We also touched upon what it takes to bring consumers over to the leaf side although sugar is still seen as part of the Teavana equation.
He also touched upon the issue of the smaller tea establishments and how the Teavana Tea Bar presence in the marketplace might have an effect. With the planned 1,000 Tea Bars in North America in 5 years (Starbucks coffee effect historical data analogy was given) he did not think their entry would have a negative impact on the market.
My opinion… tea cafes/coffee & tea cafes, time to step up your game, if you are still solely carrying teabags, oh boy… and hiring trained knowledgeable tea staff must be in your immediate plans.
I also asked him about the term “teaologists” that I have seen mentioned on their website, to which he outlined the tea education training process and ongoing follow-up.
From what I could detect on the surface, the staff that was there this evening seemed eager and knowledgeable.
I will have to visit at another time to make a definitive assessment.
I also had the pleasure of meeting a few of my teablogger friends at the event and that is always a treat.
Upon departing I was given a lovely gift that contained several bags of blended teas (my husband will be very happy), canisters, equipment for manual measurement and brewing along with a brewing guide.
Hiding so unobtrusively on the side of the box was yes…you guessed it, a bag of rock sugar…lol
A quote I included in my last post seems appropriate to repeat here,
In the book flap introduction of “The Ancient Art Of Tea,” by Walter Peltier, tea making is described as thus:
“Making a perfect cup of tea is a dynamic process that requires the right environment, good spring water, a suitable fire to boil water, skill in steeping tea, and a deep understanding of tea connoisseurship”
From what I experienced, the Teavana/Starbucks team you have done an awesome job creating a relaxing visually appealing environment that you are well noted for. I will, as I mentioned, be coming back for a “straight up” no sugar, cup of tea and to sample the array of sumptuous food offerings.
Thank you for allowing me to attend your “premier night”.