Paul Sakuma, File, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Starbucks is trying to make tea trendy, with plans to open its first "tea bar" in New York City.
The Seattle-based company says Teavana Fine Teas + Teavana Tea Bar will serve sweets and other food including flatbreads, salads and small plates ranging in price from about $3 to $15.
It is a switch for the Teavana chain to offer Starbucks-style freshly made drinks and food. Its stores are primarily in shopping malls and sell boxed and loose tea and accessories.
Drink prices will range from $3 to $6, and include novelties such as a Spiced Mandarin Oolong tea and a Pineapple Kona Pop + Blueberry Bliss iced tea.
Starbucks opened a similar tea shop last year near its headquarters under its Tazo brand. Next month, that store will be converted into a Teavana tea bar as well.
The opening of the New York City store on Thursday comes after Starbucks last year bought Teavana, a chain of about 300 stores. Starbucks has said it plans to use the acquisition to make tea a bigger part of American culture, as it has with coffee.
Starbucks Corp., which has about 11,000 U.S. locations, has been on a strong financial run even in the weak economy, boosting its profits by raising prices, revamping food offerings and adding items such as pricey bottled juices. In its latest quarter, it said sales rose 9 percent at cafes open at least a year.
The idea of a tea shop isn't new, of course. Jenny Ko, a part owner of the Culture Tea Bar in New York's Harlem neighborhood, notes that they're more prevalent on the West Coast but that they've been popping up on the East Coast more recently as well.
Ko said she welcomes Starbucks' push into tea shops, even though the company has put many put many smaller coffee chains out of business with the popularity of its namesake stores. She said she thinks her tea shop has enough unique offerings to withstand the competition. Besides, she said Starbucks' push should lead to greater awareness about teas in general.
"That's how everyone got into coffee, after Starbucks opened," Ko said.
Already, Ko noted people are more knowledgeable about tea, with customers increasingly familiar with different varieties such as oolong and Darjeeling.
Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi.
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