A few months ago I had the opportunity to try the relatively new Oprah chai from Starbucks (and no, this is not a sponsored post or a review of any kind). I’m not a coffee drinker; tea is my thing. One taste is all it took for me to become instantly hooked on the not-too-sweet and just-a-bit-spicy Oprah chai. Jeff really likes it, too. So much so, in fact, that he attempted to replicate the recipe using our Tazo chai tea bags. Starbucks will be the first to tell you that the Oprah chai is not a Tazo product, but a Teavana product. Still, my mixology-inclined handsome husband was sure he could manage a copycat. He concocted a complex mixture of ginger and pepper and, well, I don’t even know what else he used but suffice it to say that it was far more complicated than a simple tea bag. He tried for weeks to come up with something similar to the Starbucks version and for weeks he failed. Eventually, he gave up and we decided to just go to the Teavana store and buy the official Oprah chai. Sounds like a logical, simple enough solution right?
Have you even stepped foot into a Teavana store? I hadn’t. I had been warned that Teavana is to tea what Tiffany and Co. is to jewelry: overpriced. I expected expense, I didn’t, however, know to expect crazy.
We thought our Teavana shopping experience would be similar to visiting any other specialty retailer. It SO wasn’t. We walked in with one goal in mind: to purchase some Oprah chai and get home in time to pick Jayce up from the bus stop. The pierced and gauge-wearing Teavana sales guy (who I will henceforth refer to as Teavana) apparently, had other plans. He snatched us up the second we crossed the store’s threshold, asking what brought us in today. We started to explain our love for Oprah chai but he stopped us short, tsk tsking because Starbucks uses a concentrate. He said that the loose leaf Oprah chai that is sold in store would result in a stronger finished product, which was fine with us. We hoped he’d point us in the right direction and lead us to the register. Instead, he asked how we intended to brew our tea. We had already considered the fact that we’d need to purchase a tea strainer, too, and so we asked for his recommendations. Boy was that a mistake. Teavana took that as a cue to lead us to the cast iron teapots. Once in that section of the store, he said (in all seriousness, mind you), “I’m going to leave you alone here for a few minutes. I want you to meditate on which of these teapots speaks to you.”
Jeff and I stood in awkward silence for a few moments while Teavana hovered intensly, appearing to meditate somewhat aggressively in our general direction because we, apparently, were doing it wrong. When what I deemed to be an appropriate amount of time for teapot meditating had passed, I pointed to a cornflower blue version and said, “We like that one.”
He drew a pointed breath. “That’s a beautiful piece,” he allowed. And then he did something that caused me to look around to see if perhaps I was on a hidden camera show. He gripped the teapot in both hands and pulled it to his breastbone. “I’m going to take a reading of this teapot,” he said. I kid you not. And then he closed his eyes and bowed his head towards the teapot, intentionally inhaling and exhaling exaggeratedly.
I took total advantage of Teavana’s closed eyes and exchanged a quick glance with Jeff–one of those let’s get the heck out of here looks. I guess I’m simpleminded, but if it were me taking a reading of the teapot, my reading would likely have resulted in the following information:
$129.99. Made in China. Hand wash only.
Teavana, on the other hand, came up in a concentrated squint. “This teapot is one with nature. It depicts a love of balance–harmony.”
Not one to argue with the expert, I took his word for it. The only problem, of course, being that my checking account, too, has a love of balance. That particular teapot would have thrown it all out of whack so we politely declined and cut right to the point.
“I am not prepared to part with that kind of cash today. I think we’ll just get the actual tea leaves and be on our way.”
Teavana was sweet as honey, telling us that he understood completely. As requested, he led us to the tea canisters and started scooping our Oprah chai into one. He talked as he did so, giving details on brewing and air-tight storage. My attention, however, was captivated by the numbers creeping ever skyward on the scale as he piled in the chai. When he finished, the scale showed that we owed some $82. Wait, wha? Yeah, no.
“Oh,” I said, “I think we’ll take less. Would you mind pouring some of that out?
“No problem,” Teavana says, “how about a one month supply?”
“That sounds good,” I answer, and he dumps accordingly. When he’s finished, the scale reflects that we owe thirty-something dollars. Expensive tea, yes, but I really just wanted the whole thing to be done and over. I whip out my credit card, but Teavana isn’t through yet.
“And then we add the price of the canister and–”
“Wait, wait, wait. What? I didn’t realize there was an extra charge for the canister. Can you just bag it and we’ll use a canister from home? Airtight, I promise.”
“Oh no,” Teavana explains. “All of our customers leave with a canister.”
Fair enough, I thought to myself. I guess we just weren’t meant to be customers then. I politely explained that I had intended only to drop in and quickly pick up some Oprah chai. I didn’t realize that I’d need to refinance the house in order to do so. We assured Teavana that we would come back sometime in the future but that we had changed our minds about purchasing anything that day. And then we went to Starbucks and picked up the Oprah chai canister there. No refinancing necessary.