Starbucks is in the process of discontinuing Tazo teas from its stores. Tazo will continue to exist as a brand, but we no longer offer these drinks. They can still be purchased in retail boxes at some Starbucks, but once they phase out completely, the teas won't be available at all in stores. Instead, Starbucks is carrying new Teavana teas. I will make a hub covering these new flavors soon! I've decided to leave this hub up to help tea drinkers navigate Tazo's offerings.
Navigating the Starbucks menu can be hard enough, but as a barista there, I know that there's plenty of information NOT on the menu that can totally change a customer's experience. In an attempt to educate people who are interested in learning more, I started writing a series of guides about things like the terms used there and cappuccinos.
Not long after I first began working for the company, Starbucks launched a whole new line of hot teas called 'full leaf teas.' I've always been a tea lover and while I was put off by the change at first because a few of the varieties were discontinued, I quickly got on board with the change. The full leaf teas have an amazing depth of flavor because they are satchels that contain the whole ingredients that flavor the tea. It is a convenient way to get the full flavor you would get from using a diffuser with loose leaf teas - these function just like regular tea bags, but the ingredients are very high quality.
I go into so much depth about the nature of the tea bags because all of the flavors of Starbucks Tazo tea are available for retail purchase in tins that contain fifteen bags. And speaking of Tazo... Tazo is simply the brand name of all of the Starbucks teas, and it is often billed on the menus. It's not necessary to specifiy that you want a Tazo tea, because any tea you order will be Tazo. It's also worth pointing out that since every tea is Tazo, you'll need to be a little more specific for your barista to know what you want. Simply ordering a Tazo tea is a very open-ended request!
Starbucks hot teas are exactly what you would expect a cup of tea to be. They are made simply with tea bags and hot water. A tall and grande contain just one tea bag while the venti traditionally contains two. It is definitely possible to add a tea bag to any size, and sometimes customers even get creative and mix the flavors of the tea. It's actually pretty common for people to order ventis with one tea bag - however, if you like your tea weaker, I recommend ordering it as a 'grande xxx tea in a venti cup' simply because a lesser experienced barista may still charge you for a venti. If you're only getting one tea bag in your venti, there's no reason for the extra charge!
It's worth noting that the hot water Starbucks baristas use to make the hot teas is generally at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Personally, when I order a hot tea or make one for myself at the store, I top it off with some ice so it's immediately drinkable. Adding cold cream, milk or a little bit of water is also a good option, but be careful with any of the teas containing citrus - it IS unfortunately possible to curdle the milk. (Passion, Orange Blossom, Zen and Vanilla Rooibos are the teas that I would suggest using caution when adding cold milk to. However, there is a pretty simple solution - ask for your milk steamed before it's added to the tea. The problem with adding milk to these only arises when you add cold dairy to the hot water. Alternatively, if you're making these teas at home, try adding the milk first, then the hot water, or warming your milk a bit.)
I've heard that people sometimes think that the hot tea we serve in the store is different than the tea we sell in the tins. It's actually the exact same thing, but I think that the difference in flavor may come from the steeping times. All of the tazo tins direct you to steep the tea for five minutes, but the baristas are given different numbers - green and herbal teas should steep for five, whereas the black teas are only steeped for three. Keep in mind that unless you ask us to time it for you, we just put the tea bag in hot water and hand it straight to you with no time to steep. If you're making tea at home, I recommend experimenting a little bit. I prefer some of my teas a little stronger and will let them steep for longer than five minutes.
I'm very pleased with the varieties of flavor that Starbucks offers for hot teas. They can be simplified into three basic categories - black teas, which have the most caffeine, green teas, which still contain caffeine, and then the herbal teas which have no caffeine at all.
China Green Tips
This is Starbucks' version of a traditional green tea. It's definitely got an earthy and grassy flavor. Though I'm a fan of the much more complicated chai, sometimes I love a basic tea, and China Green Tips is definitely that. Starbucks reccommends pairing it with coffee cake, but I honestly would say just have this cup of tea on it's own. If you're a fan of the grassy green tea flavor, then it's best served by itself.
For people who want the health benefits of green tea but can't get on board with that earthy flavor, Zen is a great alternative. It's made with lemongrass and spearmint, which lends to a unique and great flavor. It might sounds weird to go mixing lemon and mint, but I assure you, it's delicious. Zen tea is great on it's own, but it also pairs well with any kind of fruit and especially citrus.
This little guy always sneaks under the radar! It's often mistaken for an herbal blend, but it is in fact a green tea and contains caffeine. Some baristas who don't have the passion for tea that I do may even lead you astray, but I promise that this is made with green tea!
I always describe orange blossom to customers by saying it tastes how you would expect it to based on the name. It's citrusy, floral and sweet and I would describe it as light. I usually brew my teas according to the Starbucks standards, but when I make myself a cup of orange blossom, I usually let it steep longer or add an extra tea bag because the flavors are more mild than some of my other favorites.
It's pretty easy to figure what orange blossom would pair well with - anything with fruit!
Awake is the name given to Starbucks' basic black tea. Though it's often billed as just that - basic - there is definitely an interesting depth of flavor to this tea. It is described as having notes of caramel and dark cherry and while it may take a seasoned palate to detect those notes, the full, malty flavor is readily apparent to any novice tea drinker. This tea is aptly named and is great for mornings - it pairs very well with blueberry muffins!
Starbucks' earl grey is a flavorful take on the original. It is described as floral and has definite notes of lavender in taste. I've never personally been a fan of earl grey, but this is my favorite version of it by far. Because the tea has a spice to it, it pairs well with smooth, silky sweets like maple or caramel.
I could sing the praises of Tazo full leaf Chai all day long. This has been my favorite flavor of tea for years, and I can honestly say that Starbucks has my favorite version of it. It's worth nothing that chai tea lattes are not traditionally made with the tea bags, but we'll get into that more in depth when we talk about the lattes. If you've never had chai before, I would describe it as a spicy sweet flavor. The spices that make up this tea are all very distinct and work wonders when put together.
Tazo chai contains star anise, cinnamon, cloves, caradamom, ginger, and a bit of black pepper. Because of the nature of the full leaf tea bags, you can expect an amazing depth of flavor from this cup of tea. An experienced palate can most definitely pick out each of those unique individual flavors. Personally, I would recommend pairing chai with any baked good, though you can't go wrong with cinnamon.
Remember, all of these teas are decaffeinated!
The most notoriously difficult to pronounce tea I've ever come across! Vanilla Rooibos is also a difficult flavor to describe. If you've ever had African Red Bush tea, then it's easy to relate, but if you've never tasted it... well, I can say for sure that it's distinct. Tazo bills this tea as rich, herbal and fruity with hints of cinnamon and while I agree with that flavor profile, I would also like to add that it's tangy and tart. It has notes of peach and vanilla as well, and I would say that the most prominent flavor is that peach.
Pairing Vanilla Rooibos is difficult for me because I'm not a big fan of the tea. Tazo reccommends drinking it alongside a buttery scone, but I think it'd go well with any sort of light pastry.
This is another tea that completely blows my mind. It's just so delicious, and the list of ingredients is pretty intriguing. Simply put, this is like a berry tea. It contains papaya, mango and passion fruit as well as lemongrass, hibiscus flowers and rose hips - which, put together, make for a gorgeous, fragrant tea bag that also tastes amazing. I much prefer this tea iced, but I'll take it hot on a cold day. Passion also pairs well with anything fruity, and Tazo makes note of banana bread in particular.
This is Starbucks' best representation of a mint tea. It contains both peppermint and spearmint as well as tarragon, which really ties it all together. As someone who's always been a fan of peppermint tea, I was a little wary of Refresh, but I can assure you, it does the realm of mint tea justice. This is the only tea that I would readily pair with chocolate and in fact, if you're a fan of chocolate at all, I demand you try a cup of Refresh tea with it!
Calm tea is Starbucks and Tazo's version of chamomile. It has a toasty sweet flavor and Tazo also bills it as creamy and floral. I have to say that this is the most aptly named tea. It really is perfect for a sore throat or as an evening cup of tea to relax with. This tea contains chamomile, lemon grass, rose petals, licorice root and spearmint. It pairs well with lemony baked goods, but I definitely recommend having a cup on it's own - preferably in a quiet room or with some soothing music!
Currently, Starbucks only offers one seasonal tea during the winter (usually starting in November,) and it is called Joy tea. Joy is a unique blend of green, oolong and black teas. There is a great depth of flavor to it, and Tazo bills it accurately as floral and peachy. Joy tea goes well with almost any breakfast, in my opinion, though it is recommended that you pair it with something peachy.
I feel that any tea lover can find a few tantalizing choices on the Starbucks menu. Tazo is a favorite brand of mine, and I definitely encourage trying all of the different flavors.
Thank you for reading! I hope you learned something. To continue on reading about the Starbucks menu, check out my guide to Starbucks' iced teas.
Amanda W (author) from Pittsburgh on January 06, 2015:
I have kidney problems that run in my family, and I'd never heard to stay away from licorice root. Thanks for sharing!! I'm not positive that none of the Tazo teas contain licorice root, nor whether any of the Teavana teas we now carry do. I am under the impression that there are minimal ingredients contained in these, but if it is a medical concern, I'm not comfortable saying you should take my word for it.
Ann from AK from Kenai, Alaska on September 19, 2014:
I'm not necessarily a tea snob, but why can't we Americans leave licorice root out of these tea formulations? Licorice root is NOT safe for most people's kidneys if they are on prescription meds for blood pressure, cholesterol medication, etc., or if someone has diabetes. This is why I don't buy any drinks containing tea at Starbucks because I do not know which has what and most do.
Amanda W (author) from Pittsburgh on August 31, 2013:
We could definitely add vanilla syrup to a vanilla rooibos tea for you! There would be no extra charge to use vanilla syrup in the latte, but there WOULD be a charge in a plain vanilla rooibos tea. However, you could always try vanilla powder for no extra charge.
Jrm on July 10, 2013:
I have a question. I heard that the vanilla rooibos doesn't have as much as a vanilla flavor as some customers like it to be. Could you ask the bartistas to add some vanilla syrup to it or can you not do that?
Amanda W (author) from Pittsburgh on April 25, 2013:
I definitely recommend only steeping them once, but I've seen a handful of customers use their tea bags twice. I'd have to imagine that the tea gets weaker every time the same bag is used.
Dana on April 10, 2013:
How many times can these be steeped? I normally do one, but they said something to me tonight when I came back without. I'm guessing no more than 2-3. I'm not used to full-leaf tea in a tea bag. Thanks! :D
Amanda W (author) from Pittsburgh on February 14, 2013:
I don't know enough about teas to know how the temperature of the water used affects the flavor. However, I do know why Starbucks uses the same temperature water for every tea. We have a hot water tap attached to our coffee brewers that dispenses 200 degree (Fahrenheit) water. Aside from the sink taps, which are not filtered, it is the only source of hot water we have.
Spencer on February 08, 2013:
I love this series! but why in the world does Starbucks brew tea at such high temps! black tea is fine, but everything else should not be brewed at those temps.
hibs on January 26, 2013:
thanks for the useful info!
AC on January 16, 2013:
airlandy on February 18, 2012:
Thanks for this information, it's really helpful!