Inside the Making of Oprah’s Starbucks Tea Line, Her ‘Aha’ Moment

By Stefanie Tuder

Apr 30, 2014 3:16pm

You can officially thank holy matrimony for the new Oprah chai latte at Starbucks nationwide. Oprah Winfrey happened to be seated near Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at a mutual friend’s wedding, and the two got to talking about tea.

Winfrey professed her love for chai, but admitted she wasn’t drinking the Teavana brand, which is owned by Starbucks. Schultz knew he had to change that and followed up after by sending Winfrey a sample of the Teavana Maharaja Chai Oolong. Winfrey declared the brand’s chai blend among her most favorite things in December 2013 and decided she wanted to make her own.

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Oprah Winfrey and Starbucks Chairman, President and CEO Howard Schultz celebrate the launch of the new Teavana Oprah Chai Latte. (Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

Thus the Oprah Chai Latte was born, making Winfrey America’s newest tea saleswoman. Winfrey teamed up with Starbucks to hawk her new proprietary chai blend at Starbucks and Teavana stores around the country this week, and it’s attracted some attention.

As seen in the video here, Winfrey worked closely with Teavana teaologists Naoko Tsunoda and Jason Adams to create the exact 10-ingredient blend that includes black tea (from India), rooibos (from South Africa), cinnamon, carob, ginger, black pepper, chicory root, cloves, cardamom and “natural flavor,” which the company declined to disclose for competitive reasons.

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Oprah Winfrey's new Teavana chai tea line. (Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

“Oprah was very hands on in creating her tea,” said Naoko Tsunoda, Teavana’s tea authority and director of tea development, in a statement. “We laid out all the ingredients and Ms. Winfrey personally smelled, tasted and asked about each one.”

According to Tsunoda, the team chose Indian black tea after Winfrey fell in love with chai tea at an Indian home and South African rooibos for Winfrey’s close ties to the country that’s home to the school she sponsors.

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Oprah Winfrey surprises customers at the launch of the new Teavana Oprah Chai Latte. (Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

“When she said it was perfect there were smiles all around and everyone was so happy,” recalled Tsunoda. “We had an ‘aha’ moment. It was magic. We all rejoiced.”

Winfrey visited a New York City Teavana store yesterday for the launch of the drink, spawning the hilarious #OprahSelfie hashtag on Twitter, with Starbucks employees making the most of the Oprah-branded merchandise hitting shelves.

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Credit: @CarissaGrapes/Twitter

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Credit: @samanthajo_243/Instagram

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Credit: @sammieff/Twitter

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