I don’t know when it started or who first got me hooked, but I now love tea. Not only do I make myself a big cup to enjoy each morning (it’s literally sitting beside me right now) but my wife and I also make a pot of it each night to have with dessert. But every once in a while, I like to mix things up with a cup of coffee or a latte, which usually means a trip to Starbucks. You know what makes those sporadic lattes taste even better? Getting them for free, courtesy of my daily tea habit.
Let me explain — just over a year ago, Starbucks changed their rewards program from one based on just the number of purchases you made (Buy 12, get one free) to one based on the actual dollars you spent. At the time, many fans were up in arms, especially those who typically purchased lower-priced items and would have to wait longer to be rewarded. However, in addition to the promise of Double Stars Days and other promotions for Gold Members to earn bonuses, there’s one massive loophole in Starbucks’ system: Teavana.
If you’re not familiar, Teavana is a chain of retail stores (usually found in malls) that sells loose leaf tea and various tea-drinking accessories. They were purchased by Starbucks in 2012 and soon integrated with the coffee giant’s older rewards program. Unfortunately for Teavana customers who may have spent $100 refilling their tea supply, such a transaction would have still have only gained them one measly star toward their “lucky dozen.” Today, under the new program, that same purchase would net you 200 stars — enough for a free drink and more than half way to another (or two-third to reaching Gold status if you’re a newbie).
As an avid tea drinker, I thought this was too good to be true at first — but it’s not. In fact, you can even take advantage of the monthly Double Stars Day that Starbucks offers to really make a killing on your Teavana run. Disclaimer: I haven’t actually tried going on Double Stars Day myself just yet, but the employees tell me it does apply and the Teavana site implies the same.
The only downside to this masterful plan is that Teavana can get expensive, with some teas even fetching $25 for two ounces. That said, there are a number of teas — in different varieties — you can get for less than $10. That two ounces of loose leaf tea will also get up to about 30 cups depending on how much you use each time, making this a far better deal than paying $5 for flavored milk and a shot of espresso at the Moby-Dick place. Plus, if you really wanted, you could mix your flavored Teavana teas with less-pricey base tea from your local supermarket to make the good stuff go further.
By the way, if you really do want to try those top shelf teas, wait until you reach your free reward — instead of using your free drink at Starbucks, you can redeem it for one free ounce of loose leaf at Teavana. Also, you’ll want to sign up for their e-mail alerts as I’ve regularly received 15% off just for dropping a special password. On that note, it also helps to buy in bulk at Teavana as they give a 10% discount when you buy a pound (15% for two pounds and 20% for three pounds), which is why my wife and I stock up for a few months at a time.
A few caveats: first, in order to earn redeemable stars, you must become a Starbucks Gold Card Member. This means you need to register a Starbucks gift card and earn 300 stars (spend $150) within a year’s time before you can start enjoy the “free drink with every 125 stars” deal. In the meantime, though, you do get a free birthday reward and a few other perks.
While some Starbucks fans were disappointed and/or irate about the changes made to the Gold Card program last year, tea drinkers like me have made out like bandits. So if you’re a Teavana regular and you haven’t already, I highly recommend joining the Starbucks Rewards Program and getting your free drink on.
Note: the information in this article was accurate at the time it was published but Starbucks/Teavana polices are subject to change.