While traveling and enjoying the incredible weather up here in beautiful British Columbia this summer, I’ve taken notice of a growing trend percolating throughout this great province of ours. The menu boards in teahouses and cafés are now offering an incredible array of tea-based lattes. Even in some of the most off-the-beaten-track hovels, there is a good chance that their liquid offering will sport three or four lattes that are based on some form of tea. Those of us in the business are aware that for the past decade, the only tea latte that was standard on most café menus was the ubiquitous chai latte. I know this all too well because, for a good part of my life in tea, I owned a company that supplied liquid chai to cafés all over Canada.
Now, as you peer up at the menu board, right there alongside all the classic coffee lattes are new breeds of bevys that are, much to the delight of the patrons, not derived from a roasted bean. Aside from chai, you will see the increasingly popular London Fog, a creamy Earl Grey-based latte with vanilla and foamed milk. For the non–caffeine drinker comes a rooibos caramel latte that is essentially the ultimate dessert replacement, and so yummy, one café owner told me that most people can’t seem to stop at just one. A great little teahouse in the interior of BC called Chai Baba offers their own twist on a London Fog – substituting jasmine green tea for Earl Grey and appropriately naming it a Jasmine Fog. It just so happens to be one of those “to-die-for” beverages you stumble upon every now and then.
So why this increasing presence and popularity of tea-based lattes? Is the classic coffee latte under fire from its healthier cousin? From my experience as a teahouse owner and operator for the better part of seven years, I can say that the tea latte is an essential first step in the conversion of a coffee drinker to a tea sipper. Most die-hard cuppa joe-a-day folks will not simply switch from a cup of coffee to a cup of orange pekoe just because they know it is healthier.
The tea latte, because of its similarity to a coffee latte, is a great first step for the customer who is making an effort to cut down on his/her coffee consumption. If the tea latte is rich, strong, and incredibly flavorful, there is a good chance that you will captivate the palate of the java head and lure him/her into the world of fine tea. I have been witness to it hundreds of times and in some cases the patron has given up coffee altogether and converted entirely to tea.
Tea lattes are an essential part of the café menu and with the hundreds and thousands of tea and tisanes available, the tea café owner has few obstacles aside from a good imagination. The key requirement of your tea latte offering is that it be darn good! There is absolutely no room for mediocrity here. When I train a new café owner on producing tea lattes, I always ask after he/she makes it, “Is this the best you can produce and does it knock your socks off?” If the answer is no, it’s back to the drawing board.
We are on a mission here folks – and none of us in the tea world will rest on our laurels until the world wakes up to the taste of our healthy tea beverages.
Now go and create something fantastic from your tea wall. The world is at your door.