Recently, I took four flights in seven days. For tea lovers, those add up to a nightmare situation. What passes for onboard tea in economy class is often pre-brewed swill tainted with the residue of the coffee having been made previously in the same pot. If not muddy flavored, it’s rarely hot enough. Tea companies with an interest in high-volume food service operations, of which airline feeding systems are a large part, please step up to the plate. With tea drinking on the rise, there’s opportunity in them thar hills.
Arguably, there’s a raft of passengers who would welcome something better than a CTC filled tea bag (if you’re lucky) plopped into a cardboard cup with lukewarm water. And I will bet that tea lovers or even occasional tea drinkers would pay for the privilege of being served a beverage that was based on good quality leaves. People readily fork over $9.00 for a small and undistinguished cheese/crackers/fruit plate (my last resort when hunger strikes and flying schedules allow no time beforehand to source anything tasty to bring aboard).
True, this market is price-sensitive and anyone with an interest in penetrating it has to connect with the large airline catering companies. As in any wholesale or retail operation, education is key. Why serve this when I can serve that for pennies less per serving, they will balk. Passable or even good tea can and does only cost fractions of cents per serving. Start with the airlines that are trying to set themselves apart from the humdrum. Virgin and Southwest each would seem to be apt companies, open to innovation and strong campaigns for brand differentiation. Other than beverages and paltry snack packs (pretzels, peanuts, cookies), everything else on the menu is sold. So why not push the limits a bit and sell good tea and good coffee for a buck a cup? There’s money to be made on both sides and an audience who would be grateful.
Rishi, Numi, Serendipitea, Harney, are you listening? You provide the tea and educate the airline catering folks about the importance of the temperature of the water. And if all else fails, travelers of the world unite! Bring your own tea bags filled at home from premium quality loose leaf (these should clear security), ask for the hot water, and enjoy! They’ll give you a cookie perhaps to go along with it and an extra cup to set the tea bag aside.