NEW YORK - Starbucks (SBUX) is retreating from Teavana "tea bars" that first opened in New York City a little more than two years ago and mimicked the coffee chain's namesake stores, except with tea.
The company says it will convert the three tea bars in New York City to Starbucks stores this spring and close another location in Beverly Hills. A fifth location in Seattle near its headquarters will remain open as a way to test new ideas. The stores served made-to-order tea drinks and some food items, with places to sit much like at Starbucks stores.
The closure of the tea bars will not affect the more than 350 Teavana retail locations, which primarily sell packaged teas and appliances, the company said. Starbucks acquired the Teavana chain in late 2012, noting the rapidly growing tea market globally.
When the first tea bar location opened in New York City about a year later, CEO Howard Schultz had said the store "elevates the tea experience in the same way we've done for coffee." The company had said it planned to transform more Teavana stores into such locations.
It isn't the first time Starbucks has retreated from an idea it once touted as having major potential. This past June, the company also said it was closing all its more than 20 La Boulange cafes. Starbucks had also bought La Boulange in 2012 and said at the time it planned to give the small San Francisco-area chain a national presence.
Starbucks has since incorporated both the Teavana and La Boulange brands onto the menus of its flagship Starbucks stores.
Starbucks Corp. representative Christina McPherson said Friday the closure of the Teavana tea bars does not change the company's "commitment to tea." She said the idea is to instead provide tea options through Starbucks stores, which have a bigger footprint.
The conversion to Starbucks stores in New York City will start in April, she said. She said the Beverly Hills location will close later this year, but did not provide a timeline.