A look at Starbucks' tea shop competitors

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Argo Tea

Based in Chicago, Argo Tea could be called the “Starbucks of tea” based on its contemporary menu of hot and cold teas, and healthful food offerings, from savory and sweet pastries to tea-infused grains, salads and panini.

Among tea beverages served in house, guests can choose from a selection of signature drinks, such as a Chocolate Mint, steamed cocoa with mint and tea; a carbonated iced Tea Sparkle; or a White Tea Açai Squeeze with açai berries, white tea and lemonade, for example. A wide selection of loose teas and accessories, as well as bottled drinks, are also available.

The first Argo Tea location opened in 2003, and the chain now has about 25 locations in Chicago, New York, Boston and St. Louis. Argo recently signed a licensing agreement with Azadea Group to open 100 stores in the Middle East, with the first scheduled to open this fall in Beirut, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Last year, Argo launched a line of ready-to-drink CPG products, which are now sold in about 10,000 retail locations, the company said. Also new is a Bag-in-Box foodservice format product line that company officials said is being evaluated by several national restaurant chains.

“With a multi-channel distribution system in place to sell its high-quality, premium products, we believe Argo is poised for robust growth as we continue a national roll out of brand-building flagship cafes and ‘teaosks’ in world capitals and engage additional channel partners in the retail and foodservice markets,” said Dana Dimitri, Argo’s director of marketing, in a statement.

The company, which was founded by Arsen Akavian, expects systemwide sales to reach about $20 million in 2012.

Talbott Teas

The parent company to the Jamba Juice smoothie chain acquired Talbott Teas earlier this year after the Chicago-based tea brand was featured on the ABC-TV show “Shark Tank.”

James White, chair, president and chief executive of Emeryville, Calif.-based Jamba Inc., said the premium tea brand fit with Jamba Juice’s positioning as a health-and-wellness lifestyle brand.

Previously sold online through QVC, or through high-end grocery stores, salons and spas, as well as luxury hotels, Talbott Teas will soon be available for sale at Jamba Juice’s 750 locations across the country as brewed beverages and packaged products.

Stash Tea

Based in Tigard, Ore., Stash Tea Co., is primarily a wholesale tea brand sold in grocery stores and online, as well as supplying foodservice outlets around the country.

The brand’s only retail location is near its corporate headquarters in Tigard. But later this summer, the company plans to open a second retail store in Portland that will have a tea bar that sells hot and iced brewed teas, as well as a small menu of baked goods, tea and teaware, said company spokesperson Dorothy Arnold.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout