Surely as a tea drinker you’ve experienced the following: You’re finishing a fabulous meal and feel nearly sated. Food: beautifully prepared and presented, creative, and delicious. Service: knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive. Atmosphere: well-designed, tasteful, and comfortable. A perfect finish to a perfect meal would be a perfectly prepared pot of fresh, soothing tea to complement your handcrafted gourmet dessert. You’re offered coffee with your dessert, and upon asking for tea, you’re informed they have just one type of tea.
Knowing this isn’t a good sign, and you resign yourself to the mirage that any of cup tea is better than none at all – until you receive it. You’re given tepid water alongside a clunky, thick beige mug, a stale teabag of dust resembling black tea, and a limp lemon slice that you wouldn’t ordinarily put into your good tea anyway. How disappointing to have invested such time and money into a wonderful meal to finish it on such an utterly tasteless note.
Why do restaurateurs so often marginalize us tea drinkers? They often tell me they don’t believe there is much demand for it, that it takes too much effort to make, costs too much, or that it’s too much of a pain to source. We as tea drinkers have been too quiet and too polite for much too long as we acquiesce ending our meals with flavorless fannings and dust.
What we need to do is demand more: ask for good tea and let your favorite restaurants know your preferences. Let them know that good tea, both loose and bagged, is more readily available than ever, so procurement is no longer a viable excuse. It also helps to inform them that good loose tea can be extremely profitable because it can command a higher price if it is prepared and presented well.
I often hear from other restaurant owners that serving loose-leaf tea is a pain. From a process standpoint, serving bad tea is as much work as serving good tea, whether bagged or loose: I’ve proven this in timed “races”. While it’s easiest and fastest to pour a cup of [often stale] coffee or a digestif, it’s still simpler than pulling a decent shot of espresso.
If more tea drinkers demand decent tea, restaurants will start to listen. Patronize places that offer good tea along with good food and vote with your dollars. It’s up to the tea-drinking community to spread the good news about how wonderful a cup of tea can be.
Restaurateurs have an inexpensive, easy opportunity to make a lasting positive impression on guests’ experiences. Great experiences will undoubtedly result in repeat and word-of-mouth visits, which is what a restaurant needs in order to stay viable.