How many times has the subject of really lousy tea in hotels, restaurants, and other foodservice venues come up here at TChing? It has been a huge problem in the public’s perception of tea and, finally, there appears to be real hope on the horizon. I only know of Scott Shivula through our LinkedIn connection and a couple of exchanged emails, but he was with China Mist Tea for some time and now does specialty tea consulting to foodservice. I highly suggest reading this interview of him.
With this awakening of tea’s value in foodservice, the timing couldn’t be better for our commercial by-the-cup loose tea brewer, it turns out. After years of working on the best presentation and technology, we are closing in, and our engineer is “tying up loose ends” as I write. I know there are some who feel traditional steeping of tea is the best and/or only way to go, and I respect their feelings on the subject, but we believe otherwise.
In fact, having used the prototype here at home and having to give it up for some time now while the engineer tweaks and retweaks, I have missed it immensely, not only for its’ convenience but for the taste as well. It just plain brews loose tea and herbals better than traditional steeping results.
Michelle Rabin has said I must be an incredibly patient person, but that is far from the truth. It’s become an incredibly long journey. I’ve quit giving timelines. But I believe it will help change the way foodservice prepares tea, taking out much of human error because I believe it’s just as difficult to train busy foodservice workers proper loose tea preparation and have them do it consistently as it is to brew really great coffee or pull fabulous espresso shots without proper equipment. No one seems to believe coffee should not be prepared in any way other than pour-overs (which are much less than perfect). Tea purists are welcome to brew their tea in the purest way they feel possible. But I’m digressing and my passion coming to the surface yet again, so if you disagree, let’s discuss it here.
Back to tea in restaurants: Scott and others are teaching foodservice preparers of tea the proper way to treat it, as well as educating operators on the tea itself. It has become a great profit center and its less invasive taste profile, as compared to coffee, allows it to be used in a multitude of dishes and beverages, including cocktails. We here have all proclaimed its wonderful versatility and attributes, but it’s been so hard to convince restaurants that they need to give it more billing, more space on the menu and treat it with respect. In business, it’s ‘show me the money’. And so, tea has to.
The profit margins high-end establishments are getting for quality tea offerings is stellar. Tea lovers are obviously willing to pay the price for specialty tea, as much as specialty coffee has commanded for some time. For example (from the article) “At The Cafe at LeFlour in Chicago, nitro chai tea on tap is the brand new sensation for tea drinkers, priced at $3.95 for a 10-ounce glass.”
Yes, matcha, nitro, and cold brew are the new hot buttons. Hopefully, as time progresses and interest in loose tea continues to grow, we will see consumers move into the oolongs, puerhs and white teas that are still lagging behind in public popularity, but are so much a part of the full tea experience.
So, I’m thankful for progress, aren’t you? Much to the chagrin of the naysayers, tea will have its day in the sun and I believe as more and more people experience it in better and better presentations, tea will certainly become as popular in this U.S. culture as coffee has been for so many years.