It's Tea Time!
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Oftentimes restaurant tea service is an afterthought. But when you consider it’s the most widely consumed beverage in the world behind water, why does the versatile leaf-based drink generally take a backseat to the omnipresent coffee?
Nearly 160 million Americans drink tea daily with more than 84 billion servings of tea consumed in 2017, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Of that, about 86 percent was black tea, 13 percent green and the rest included white and oolong. Another reason to add more, higher-quality tea? Eighty-seven percent of millennials consume tea.
This clearly shows many reasons to take another look at tea. And it doesn’t take much to improve that service either. When you do the math on a quality pound of tea it seems high, but break it down per serving and it’s mere pennies on the dollar.
87% of Millennials Consume Tea.
“Even with a tea that’s $100 a pound, it only costs $0.90 a serving and you can make three pots from that one serving,” says Rodrick Markus, owner of Chicago’s Rare Tea Cellar, a supplier of high-quality teas and culinary ingredients to restaurants and hotels worldwide. “The difference between spending $30 a pound and $10 a pound is like $0.20 a serving. Using something with better flavor becomes a vehicle for any restaurant to stand out.”
“About 25% of the tea we sell is for bars.”
– Rodrick Markus, Rare Tea Cellar
Spruce Up Afternoons with High Tea Service
Adding a fun tea program between lunch and dinner service, especially during the holidays, can drive in new business and fill restaurants during an otherwise slow period.
“It has to be fun and special to bring people in,” says Billy Peelle, general manager at three Michelin-starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park in New York. “What’s better when it’s cold outside around 4 or 5 p.m. than to have a great tea experience? Be the place that has that and people will stop in.”
At the end of the day, think about tea as you would wine and create a special list as part of your main menu. Educate staff so they can talk up the tea service. And display teas in nice glass jars and place brewed iced teas in large carafes where people can see them.
“What's better when it's cold outside around 4 or 5 p.m. than to have a great tea experience?”
– Billy Peelle, Eleven Madison Park
Versatility of Tea Includes Cold-Water Infusions
Here’s the thing: Tea isn’t just for sipping at the end of a meal with dessert. You can do fun things with iced tea like doing cold-water infusions; incorporate tea into food recipes; and use tea behind the bar for cocktails and spirit-free drinks.
“About 25 percent of the tea we sell is for bars,” Markus says. “You can infuse tea into the spirit, make a simple syrup out of the tea or make a straight tea infusion.”
At Chicago’s S.K.Y., the team uses tea in nearly every process in the restaurant, reveals general manager Charles Ford. Chef Stephen Gillanders uses lapsang souchong in a soy dashi for a chilled noodle and yellow tail tartare dish, while pastry chef Tatum Sinclair uses Earl Grey infusions with syrups, caramels and ice cream. Tea also lends a lot to their cocktail program, too.
“High-ABV cocktails aren’t huge right now,” Ford declares. “Tea gives you the ability to add more flavor without adding more alcohol. For a bartender to have that little extra X factor in their pocket is the best.”