Monday, February 6, 2017

4 Simple Ways Restaurants Can Improve Their Tea Service


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


Tea is usually found at the very end of a menu, often as a single line item. This sends a subliminal message to any tea drinker that this establishment does not care about the tea they offer. More than likely we will be brought Lipton or Tetley alongside water of questionable temperature and taste. Surely paying customers deserve better than grocery store fare. There are a ton of options for restaurants to upgrade the quality of the tea that they serve. Companies like Harney and Sons, Adagio Teas and Rishi Tea all offer food service options. If you don't have the time and knowledge to dedicate to curate a tea selection, consider asking your coffee distributor or hiring a tea professional.

Offer Loose Leaf


I'm just going to say it. Loose leaf is better than tea bags. Call me a tea snob but this is an inevitable truth for anyone who takes the time to really explore the tea world. Offering loose leaf tea is probably the most impactful step that a restaurant can take to improve their tea service. The customer experience is immediately transformed from one of apathy to one of epicurean novelty. For most Americans, tea that does not come in tea bags is still a fairly unfamiliar thing. Your restaurant is sure to stick in a customer's mind for a long time if you are the one to initiate them to the wonderful world of tea.

Dedicate an Electric Kettle


There is nothing worse than a cup of tea that was made with coffee pot water. Dedicated coffee makers will only dispense water that tastes like dirty bean soup. Yes, we can taste the difference! Investing in an inexpensive electric kettle will allow you to heat water when needed without compromising the customer experience. Another reason why you need an electric kettle is temperature. Coffee is typically brewed at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If you had your customer water that hot to make green tea, the result is not going to be pretty.

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!