I’d just gotten off an eight hour shift, and I still had to drop off an item at the library. After that, it was either wait twenty minutes in the dark in November for another bus, or take the ten-ish minute trek up the hill, home. I decided to stop off at Starbucks to get something to warm my hands. Not caffeinated, I had class in the morning. I figured a hot chocolate would do.
It was busy, but I did a double-take when I spotted a familiar name and colour, but unfamiliar package on the display of Christmas goodies.
Joy has been a Christmas staple of mine the past three, maybe four years. Alongside Joy usually sits Stash’s Christmas Morning. Basically, as I call them, ‘The Christmas Classics of Steven Smith: Green and Black Blends’. Before this sighting, I had even been contemplating putting in an order for Morning Light, which though it lacks Smith’s hallmark green in the blend, makes an interesting substitute: douglas fir needles. How festive is that? I was eyeing it as a replacement for Joy, since until now it seemed like I’d never see it again (I never found it in grocery stories around the Christmas season, only in Starbucks).
But now, this.
I don’t know why this bothers me so much.
Maybe it’s because Joy is so divorced from Teavana’s usual tea lineup, and the ‘style’ of teashop I associate with it. Health-claims aside, Teavana is akin to Davidstea in that it favours strongly flavoured, fun, fruity, candy blends (‘desert teas’; not a bad thing, I have my favourites). Blends with so much ‘stuff’ sometimes it’s hard to see the tea-leaves. They’re the kind of company that a offers a smattering of single-estate teas as more of a novelty. Neither of them focus on ‘blending’ in the traditional (‘British’) sense. Joy is just a little too strong, a bit too astringent. It’s different. It doesn’t fit.
Perhaps it’s because Teavana has its own Christmas lineup, and yet for some reason Starbucks has only decided to offer the bare minimum in their coffee shops (period; I think there’s a total of four Teavana teas offered in Starbucks, and no Teavana christmas blends [besides Joy]). When they first started making the shift, I was sad to see Joy go, but not being much of a Starbucks-goer, I didn’t think much more of it otherwise. Well, until I realized that Teavana’s earl grey doesn’t make much of a London Fog compared to Tazo’s. Downright tepid.
But I would have thought Starbucks would use this opportunity to get more people interested in Teavana. Offer fun festive Christmas tea lattes instead of just their winter coffee drinks (which sound delicious, but all just taste like coffee to me).
Maybe what bothers me most of all is that Steven Smith died less than a year ago. Because as much as I consider John Murchie as one of perhaps the western founders of green-black blends (I’m sure he’s not truly, but it’s certainly a credit and something strongly associated with the Murchie’s brand), Steven Smith is and was a modern-day American tea master, praised by James Norwood Pratt, and green-black blends were essentially his signature to me. He’s certainly the only one to get them onto grocery shelves, and so beloved, that Joy and Christmas Morning make a comeback every year. Every tea-brand he founded was touched with this ‘signature’ in some way. Usually around Christmas (I like to think it’s a play on red-tea/green-tea). I know Starbucks bought the brand from him fair. It’s theirs to do with, and so is Teavana. But it just doesn’t seem right.
Teavana was already almost in full-swing in Starbucks’ around this time last year, and Joy never made it into shops then. At least not those in my area (and I was in contact with a friend in the states, also a Joy fan, who saw nothing of it either). Maybe Joy had a bigger following than I, or Starbucks, thought and this is the solution after possible backlash last year. That’s my best guess.
I suppose if there’s an up side to this, it’s that you can now buy Joy loose-leaf from Teavana.
I got a cup to go that night. There’s no difference. It tastes the same. And, amusingly, they’re both still listed on Starbucks’ Canadian website, although only one is in stock.
16/11/2015 at 10:03 PM
I understand your feelings but I must say that the Teavana you describe is the company of the past. There is actually a big push for the higher quality unflavored teas (and there is more than just a few). Joy was not produced last year which would be why you couldn’t find it. As much as I loved the Tazo version, the loose leaf from Teavana is higher quality leaf. It’s a bit more sensitive because of that. I’ve had luck treating it more like a 1st flush Darjeeling. Hope that helps :)