The ‘Aha’ Moment of Creating Teavana Oprah Chai Tea

Among Oprah Winfrey’s many contributions to entertainment and pop culture is the annual gift-giving guide known as her “favorite things.” When creating her new Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea, it took an extra punch of her “favorite spices” to create the perfect balance of flavors.

“Oprah was very hands on in creating her tea. We laid out all the ingredients and Ms. Winfrey personally smelled, tasted and asked about each one,” said Naoko Tsunoda, Teavana’s tea authority and director of tea development.

After months of research and a final three hours of blending and tasting at Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, the winning flavor profile didn't emerge until Oprah asked the teaologists to “spice up” the tea with more pepper and ginger.

“I like things that have a little more kick to them,” she told the Teavana teaologists, wanting a more robust tea. She tasted the stronger blend and declared it was “perfect.”

“When she said it was perfect there were smiles all around and everyone was so happy,” recalled Tsunoda. “We had an aha moment. It was magic. We all rejoiced.”

The perfect blend is a combination of sensational ingredients – cinnamon, ginger, carob pieces, black pepper, chicory root, cardamom, and cloves blended with black tea and rooibos. Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea is sourced from 10 different countries, spanning four continents.

While this is the first time Winfrey has put her name on a product of any kind, she is not new to tea.

“She has a tea house on her property and has been blending loose-leaf tea for her own enjoyment for many years,” said Tsunoda. “Tea was already a ritual in her life and it was a casual conversation at a wedding that lead to the creation of an Oprah tea.”

The conversation was between Winfrey and Starbucks ceo Howard Schultz. Upon hearing she loved tea but hadn’t tried loose-leaf tea from Teavana – owned and operated by Starbucks – Schultz sent a selection of teas to her hotel.

Teavana’s Maharaja Chai Oolong Tea quickly became one of her “favorite things” to drink and later to promote in her December 2013 edition of O, The Oprah Magazine. Winfrey described the tea as “an intoxicating blend with notes of cinnamon, ginger, clove, and cardamom.”

Months later, Winfrey worked closely with Teavana to create her special tea blend and elegant packaging.

Her personal tea passion and the expertise of Teavana are behind Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea, debuting today in Starbucks and Teavana stores across the U.S. and Canada. Starbucks is making a donation for each product sold to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation to benefit educational opportunities for youth.

Just as tea has been a part of Winfrey’s life for many years, tea has also been a part of Starbucks heritage for more than four decades. When the company was founded in 1971 it was called Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices.

Starbucks also has several Teavana Fine Tea + Tea Bars in Seattle, New York, including a new one opening in Chicago today. An additional Tea Bar will open in New York later this year and in Los Angeles. The Tea Bars will also feature Teavana Oprah Chai.

“I think the Oprah Chai Tea is fabulous,” said Tsunoda, “and it’s also fabulous that so many people in the U.S. have a new curiosity and interest in tea.”

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