Time for tea: Starbucks’ new drink line takes off

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Time for tea: Starbucks’ new drink line takes off

Starbucks Korea sold more than 1 million cups of its tea line Teavana during the first 10 days of its launch, a sign of the growing popularity of tea.

The coffee giant introduced this month eight leaf teas including Jeju green tea, hibiscus and Youthberry white tea along with two more beverage menus: shot green tea latte and grapefruit honey black tea in Korea and Asian-Pacific markets. The eight leaf teas are sold in both packages and infused cups in Starbucks stores.

Having acquired the Teavana line of drinks and tea houses at the end of 2012, Starbucks sought to bring Teavana to 16 Asian countries this fall, including Korea, Japan and China after seeing success in the United States.

“We saw a good opportunity in Korea as the tea market here is already quite mature,” said Lee Suk-gu, chairman of Starbucks Korea. “Our various collection of leaf tea seems to have suited well for consumers who have been looking for fresh new types of tea,” he added.

The tea boom is not new to Korea. Domestic production of tea products doubled over four years, from 231,879 tons in 2010 to 463,975 tons in 2014, according to a report by Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation.

Although demand retreated in the 2000s with the influx of coffee chains, the tea market was revived with the success of the milk tea brand Gong Cha in the early 2010s. Recently, the trend has been moving toward infused tea, and in particular blended tea, which mixes two or more leaves. The factors behind its popularity are its health and detoxification attributes.

As more consumers value the health side of tea, domestic brands are strengthening their selection of traditional teas. Korean tea cafe brand Ogada has blends that combine herb leaves - such as hibiscus and rooibos - with traditional ingredients. Established in 2009, Ogada made more than 10 billion won ($8.93 million) last year.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are introducing tea bags that are different from the original squares. Domestic brand Tea-Up makes tea bags attached to the lid of a water bottle. Masini released teas that are packaged in sticks.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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