Tea cocktails. Tea-smoked duck. Green tea ice cream. The essential flavors of liquors and food are often enriched by blending or cooking with tea. For Starbucks product developers Melynda Cheng and Megan Droz, infusing “tea with tea” will yield a similar result—an iced tea beverage with an enhanced, perfectly balanced taste. According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc., nearly 84 billion servings of tea were consumed by Americans last year and approximately 80 percent was iced tea. Starbucks has developed a new take on this beverage.
“You get more of a true tea experience when you flavor green, white or black tea with herbal tea made from botanicals and fruit,” says Cheng.
“Freshly steeped botanicals have subtle flavors that don’t overpower the pure and simple notes of tea, which then have a chance to shine through,” says Droz.
More than a year ago, the duo embarked on a journey to transform the way iced tea is crafted and flavored and July 11, Starbucks introduces Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions, containing tea, fruit and botanical blends, slightly sweetened with liquid cane sugar. These new shaken iced teas are made without artificial flavors and sweeteners and are 45 calories for a Grande-sized (16 fluid-ounce) beverage. Pineapple Black Tea, Peach Citrus White Tea and Strawberry Green Tea will be available year-round at participating Starbucks company-operated and select licensed stores in the United States and Canada. Customers in North America can try a complimentary Tall (12 fluid-ounce) Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusion during “Free Tea Friday” on July 14 from 1—2 p.m.
Cheng, who was educated at New York’s Culinary Institute of America, and Droz who graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in food science, took the lead in developing the new beverages. They set out to address the growing number of Starbucks customers who order their iced tea unsweetened and explore a tea-on-tea concept to reinvent the way iced tea is flavored.
“We realized we could appeal to our tea customers looking for ways to customize their tea just as coffee drinkers do with their espresso beverages,” says Cheng. “Unlocking tea from sweetness and honing in on flavor was one way to achieve this goal.”
Droz and Cheng began investigating flavor combinations when infusing tea with botanicals and fruit.
“We tried hundreds of combinations,” says Droz. “We know when flavor notes are complementary after tasting so many beverages and food over the years as part of our work. We identified flavors that stood out against tea as well as those that were buried by it.”
Informed by Teavana’s history in blending premium loose-leaf teas and inspired by three customer-favorite teas, Pineapple Kona Pop Herbal Tea, Strawberry Paraiso White Tea and Peach Tranquility Herbal Tea, Cheng, Droz and their team spent five months developing the perfect flavors. Ultimately, they landed on three varieties of Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions that customers can now find at participating Starbucks stores.
“The fruit and botanical blends of pineapple, peach citrus and strawberry take the place of sweeteners for a lighter mouthfeel and more delicate flavor than other iced tea beverages,” says Droz. “It’s possible to mix and match the different infusions because the flavors are all complementary to our core Teavana black, green, herbal and white teas.”
Customers can choose to customize any iced tea beverage with the flavors of pineapple, peach citrus or strawberry by asking their barista to create a beverage specific to their taste preferences.
To support the introduction of the new Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions, Starbucks will launch a multi-faceted advertising campaign under the theme “Good Feels Good” that will be shared across print, online, television and digital channels starting today. The campaign celebrates and explores the universal human truth of how feeling good makes one feel.
“We are excited about the quality and innovation in our Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions and wanted to create a campaign that makes people feel the way the tea makes us feel, which is really good,” says Leanne Fremar, Starbucks senior vice president and executive creative director.
Starbucks enlisted the support of prolific director Dave Meyers and music artist Perfume Genius, along with a cast of 17 people from diverse backgrounds who are representative of Starbucks baristas, customers and everyday people. Featured in the campaign are poet, artist and speaker Cleo Wade; author and artist, Dallas Clayton; and United States Marine Veteran, Kyle Carpenter. Also featured are other vets, students, artists, innovators, risk takers and those who are simply doing inspiring work.
“There are lots of ways to represent tea and from the perspective of Teavana at Starbucks, this is a creative way to express the new Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions, a product line that is made with so much integrity,” Fremar says. “That’s a real differentiator for us as a brand.”