I think almost every tea drinker I know has bemoaned the sad state of tea in American restaurants at one time or another. Even high-end establishments disappoint with tepid water and poor quality tea bags, although there are some rare exceptions like NYC's Eleven Madison Park. I'm always confused by this because very often the same place will offer coffee from one of the so-called "third wave" vendors. Here's the thing, making tea isn't hard. It doesn't require a gargantuan effort. There are some really simple changes a restaurant could make to transform the customer experience.
Don't Make It an Afterthought
Offer Loose Leaf
Dedicate an Electric Kettle
Don't Use Paper Filters
I've been to a lot of places who have good intentions. They offer a variety of loose leaf but then cram said leaves into a paper filter. This is not any better than using regular ol' tea bags. The tea cannot expand and your customer winds up with an awkwardly messy beverage. The customer is forced to leave said filter in the cup since tea needs time to steep and they understandably don't want to stick their hands into a very hot cup. The result is an over-brewed disaster that they are very unlikely to enjoy.
As a consumer, I would gladly pay more for a cup of tea (and often do so) if what I'm getting is actually enjoyable. Is there something that you would like to see restaurants do to improve their tea service? Let me know about it in the comments!