Jan 6, 2013

Select Starbucks start serving wine during Starbucks Evenings

Starbucks Evenings

A handful of Starbucks stores across the country are getting a new program: Starbucks Evenings. These cafe locations will now be serving wine, beer and a variety of snacks to compliment them in the evenings, from 4pm to closing time. Starbucks says that “After 4 p.m., you’ll experience a more mellow, less hurried atmosphere perfect for winding down” and be able to get a glass of wine and a bite to eat someplace other than a bar or a traditional restaurant. You will still be able to get all of the usual coffee drinks and pastries, but you’ll now also have options that include truffled mac and cheese, cheese plates and chocolate fondue with a variety of dipping options. The wine selection isn’t as extensive as you’d find at a wine bar, but it is curated to provide a range of reds, whites and even sweet, sparkling wines that should offer something for everyone.

The Evenings program is definitely not going to be available at all Starbucks locations, but more stores will be launching the program as the year wears on. The stores where you’ll see this catch on are large stores, with plenty of seating and a customer base that already likes to hang out and relax in the cafe – a lot like many of the stores that offer Clover machines at the moment.

Currently, there are stores in Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland and in Dulles Airport in Washington DC. There are also two stores in the LA area and I will post a review as soon as I have a chance to visit one. I’m definitely curious to try a little wine before my coffee in the evenings – especially if I’m in the cafe doing a little blogging!

Jan 3, 2013

Starbucks Launches $1 Reusable Plastic Cups

Reusable Starbucks Cup

How often do you bring a reusable coffee cup or tumbler in to a coffee shop when you stop for a cup of coffee? If you’re anything like me, the answer is “not often enough.” Starbucks, and other coffee shops, have long been offering a small discount on coffee or drinks for bringing in your own cup but this incentive hasn’t been enough to make a big dent in coffee-lovers’ habits yet. Today, Starbucks is launching a new kind of reusable cup in an effort to encourage more customers to go green with their coffee. The lightweight plastic cups look like paper cups, only cost $1 and still save you 10 cents on each drink that you fill them with at Starbucks. They are washable, but they will also be cleaned with boiling water by baristas before being refilled, too.

In test markets, these inexpensive cups boosted consumers’ reuse by as much as 26% – a huge increase over the current rate, which is less than 2% of drinks served. Starbucks and the eco-minded are both hoping that this will change the habits of at least a few coffee drinkers.

At only $1, I’m willing to add one or two to my collection of tumblers (or replace the ones that don’t fit in my car cupholders) and make a little more of an effort to use them. And now that I’ve seen them in person, they look pretty nifty, too.

Jan 2, 2013

Starbucks acquires Teavana

Teavana Teas
Starbucks has owned the Tazo tea company since 1999, and they are a mainstay at Starbucks stores. Quality tea seems to be generating more and more interest (in the US) these days, and Starbucks has taken note. The coffee giant recently purchased specialty tea seller Teavana for $620 million. The purchase gives Starbucks a great entry into the higher end tea market. This seems like a good move for Starbucks, since Teavana has a strong brand and lots of fans who enjoy the diverse range of teas that they offer. I could see the potential for offering more tea drinks in stores as an alternative to a traditional coffee shop and as eventually branching out to some stand-alone cafes – much as they did with Tazo earlier this year. Starbucks also says that they intend to move some Teavana products into the consumer goods market – meaning that they will likely be available in grocery stores, but at a much higher price point than more mass-market Tazo teas are.

From a more personal POV, I’ve had some bad experiences at Teavana locations due to aggressively upselling staff members. I’ve had some teas there that are very nice, but I basically swore them off after the last bad trip. A refreshing of the brand and maybe some of the attitudes there would definitely bring me back to shop there again. I love the idea of an accessible tea-centric cafe, so I’ll just keep my eyes out and see what comes from this purchase in the long run.

Dec 31, 2012

Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Chai Latte Mix, reviewed

TJ's Salted Carame Chai Latte Mix

Chai tea lattes are sweet, spicy and milky. I typically find them to be a great alternative to hot chocolate on a cold day when you want something that offers a little more indulgence than another cup of coffee. On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, one of their holiday items caught my eye: Salted Caramel Chai Latte Mix. Of course I put it straight into my cart, because there are few things that are more appealing than treats that feature salted caramel.

The latte mix is like many other tea latte mixes: add hot water and stir. The mix includes a blend in cinnamon, clove, cardamom, anise and ginger, as well as black tea, honey, sugar and nonfat milk. The overall flavor is good, and you get a nice blend of spice and honey with a smooth black tea aftertaste. It is quite sweet because of both the sugar (which I assume went towards the caramel flavor) and honey included. For all the sweetness – which made this a good dessert tea drink – I did not get much caramel flavor and I didn’t really notice any notes of salt, although it is listed as an ingredient. Of course, I don’t want my tea latte to actually taste salty, but I did expect there to be a more distinct nod to salted caramel and I don’t think I would have guessed the flavor without knowing in advance what it was. I might have guessed caramel, but definitely not salted caramel.

All that said, I still like this mix even if it doesn’t quite capture the essence of salted caramel. It’s a good blend of flavors and has a holiday feel to it. It is a little too sweet to be a breakfast tea for me, but I like it in the afternoon and after dinner as a sweet way to end the evening.

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