I never saw another customer in Teavana.
The employees often stood out front, usually wringing their hands and looking uncomfortable while people walked by. They didn’t really want to serve samples. They didn’t want to stand outside and harass people into trying them. They couldn’t tell me what ingredients were in the teas–problematic, when you have allergies. Most couldn’t even tell me which were decaf. So when I heard that all Teavana stores were supposed to close, I wasn’t surprised.
I was, however, a little disappointed. There was something excellent about visiting the store and picking out my own tea, blending those I liked, and looking at all the new teapots and tea-making gadgets. I found a couple teas I really liked. I found a couple duds, too. But mostly, my visits brought stress.
See, Starbucks was quick to blame the demise of the American shopping mall for the underperformance of Teavana stores. But here’s the thing: If a store is worth visiting, people will visit. Many mall stores fail to make themselves appealing enough to pull in customers. Some continue to adapt with strong branding and advertising, making themselves continually relevant, or filling a niche that make it the best place to find what you’re looking for. Teavana did an excellent job of the latter, so why was the store always empty?
Probably because they just didn’t understand their clientele.
I mean, when you think of the average tea drinker, who do you envision? A sweet grandmother and a bookish introvert probably come to mind right away. I fall into the latter category (though I hope to be both someday!) and let me tell you–as much as I liked Teavana, I hated going there.
The staff were unhelpful. They were overly aggressive, making me feel uncomfortable and bullied. I won’t forget the time I went in and asked for two ounces of a particular tea. So imagine my discomfort when the sales lady dumped a heaping scoop into the bag on the scale, filling it with almost three times what I’d requested, then looked me straight and the eye and said “Is that okay?”
It was absolutely not, and she knew it. She also knew most people like me would crumple instead of being angry, collapse under pressure and just pay for it in hopes of avoiding a confrontation. And unfortunately, it was like that every time I visited, and more than once, I had to fall back on my husband–a prior Marine–to insist that no, removing two teaspoons of tea from the bag did not make it what I asked for.
Needless to say, I avoided the place when I was alone. I didn’t want to deal with the aggression or the inevitable challenge at the register to get what I’d asked for without being badgered into getting anything else. So, no–decreased mall traffic probably had very little with the store’s demise.
While I regret not being able to smell teas before I purchase, which means I’ll probably experiment less, there are a number of companies I’ve grown familiar with and a handful I’m looking forward to trying. I want to drink more tea in 2018, so while I’ll be kicking back with some extreme discount Teavana white chocolate peppermint this afternoon, I’ll be settling on places to try tea from this year, and here are a few contenders:
- Plum Deluxe (who I got tea from before!)
- Desert Sage Natural (A small, independent company with a LOT of blends)
- David’s Tea
- Adagio Teas (Whose fandom blends give me so many ideas)
- Republic of Tea
- Mahalo Tea
- Tea Forte (Because I loved the black cherry blend)
- Holy Mountain Trading Company
Have a favorite tea supplier? Who would you add to my list? And, most importantly… who has the best Earl Grey?