(Adds Schultz and Winfrey comments, background on Teavana)
SEATTLE, March 19 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp will add a celebrity blend to its big tea push when it debuts “Oprah Chai,” a tea-based drink created by media mogul Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey and Starbucks’ chief Howard Schultz clinked tea cups on Wednesday at the company’s annual meeting as they announced the new brew, which will go on sale at Starbucks and Teavana stores in the United States and Canada on April 29.
Starbucks, the world’s biggest coffee chain, is looking to tea as a way to keep expanding its sales as competition grows in the coffee market and it continues moving into new global markets.
“We are going to elevate the tea experience in the same way we did for coffee,” Schultz said, adding that partnering with Oprah “is a strong next step forward in accomplishing this objective.”
Starbucks said Winfrey developed the tea with Teavana’s teaologist Naoko Tsunoda.
Winfrey, a tea aficionado, said her taste runs toward the spicy, robust and fuller-bodied. And to that end, “Oprah Chai” is a blend of tea infused with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves, and will be sold in tins or as prepared tea lattes.
For each Teavana “Oprah Chai” product sold, Starbucks will make a donation to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation to benefit youth education.
According to The Tea Association of the USA, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water. While tea is the more popular beverage, coffee is king when it comes to sales.
Global coffee retail sales were $75.7 billion in 2012 compared to $40.7 billion for tea, according to market research firm Euromonitor International.
Seattle-based Starbucks’ $620 million purchase of tea store chain Teavana Holdings Inc in 2012 was its largest acquisition to date. (Reporting by Bill Rigby in Seattle and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; editing by Andrew Hay, Bernard Orr)