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Originally published November 16, 2011 at 11:11 AM | Page modified November 17, 2011 at 6:31 AM

Tazo Tea operation leaving Portland for Starbucks' Kent facility

Tazo Tea's 37 employees in Portland will all be offered jobs at the Kent plant. Starbucks expects to add 30 more jobs at the Kent roasting plant in the near term.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Starbucks has begun work on a major upgrade of its coffee roasting and packaging facility in Kent, and plans to move its Tazo Tea operation there from Portland next year.

The coffee chain also will move a test roastery from its headquarters office south of downtown Seattle to Kent, said spokesman Alan Hilowitz.

The Tazo move will give the operation more space and save the extra step of transporting Tazo products from Portland to Kent before shipping them to stores, he said.

The roastery upgrade and moves will cost tens of millions of dollars, he said, and be completed by the end of 2012. Starbucks began roasting in Kent in 1992, after roasting for years at a facility on Airport Way.

Tazo's 37 employees in Portland all will be offered jobs at the Kent plant, and if they do not want to work there, Starbucks will try to find jobs for them elsewhere in the company, Hilowitz said.

Those who leave Starbucks will receive severance and outplacement services, he said.

In addition to the 37 Tazo jobs, Starbucks expects to add 30 more jobs at the Kent roasting plant in the near term.

The coffee chain also plans to add a fifth U.S. roasting facility in an undisclosed location during the next 18 months. It currently roasts in Kent; Sandy Run, S.C.; Carson Valley, Nev.; York, Pa.; and Amsterdam.

Starbucks bought Tazo Tea in 1999. It now books $1 billion in annual sales, and Hilowitz said it was outgrowing its Portland space.

Everything at Tazo, including its warehouse, manufacturing and tasting room, will begin moving in April to Kent.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @AllisonSeattle.

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