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.