Tea 101 For Coffee Shop & Restaurant Owners

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Like the elegant fold of your napkins or the complex, nuanced flavor of the espresso you use for your Americanos, the tea you serve to your customers can provide an elevated, compelling and memorable experience. A carefully designed tea program offers your customers more than a beverage -- it offers them a unique encounter with sensation and service that they can only find in your restaurant or cafe.

Putting together a tea program that will bring customers back again and again isn’t difficult -- it just requires some strategy and a basic understanding of tea choices, storage and preparation. With that knowledge under your belt, you’ll be set to start brewing for happy customers.

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Providing a Memorable Tea Experience for Customers

Developing the tea elements of your beverage program starts with understanding your customers. Who are they? Busy commuters looking for a little liquid reprieve in their busy mornings? Relaxed diners looking to savor their experience at the table? The type and size of the tea program you should offer should match the needs of your customers.

It should also match the abilities and availability of your staff. For a coffee shop with a small staff, a limited selection of teabags or sachets might be the best choice. Their pre-portioned convenience saves your staff time and reduces room for error, measuring inconsistency or wastage.

For a fine dining establishment, consider the theater that tea can offer during dinner service. Educate your servers to be able to talk about the tea selections you offer, adding delight and interest to your customers’ choices. Consider the colors of teas you choose to offer -- a vibrant orange or sunny yellow tea in a glass teapot offers a visual treat to guests when your server carries it to the table. When they set it down and tell your guest, “I’ve begun the steep for you and, when it’s finished steeping, I’ll pour it for you,” the tea experience is once again heightened, this time by the care of the server.

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What Teas Should I Include in My Beverage Program?

For more casual restaurants and coffee shops, we recommend offering four tea varieties -- a classic green, a classic black, an herbal option and one unique choice that customers won’t be able to find elsewhere (for example, a super-trendy Turmeric Ginger or a tradition-with-a-twist Peppermint Sage).

For coffee shops and restaurants that want to pursue a more complete tea program, we recommend offering between six and nine tea varieties, customized to match the interests of your customers.

Known as the espresso of the tea world, matcha has a high level of caffeine and can be used just like espresso as a straight matcha shot, in lattes, and blended frappes. It's a great offer for guests who are looking for a healthful boost of both antioxidants and caffeine.


How Should I Price My Teas?

While the right tea pricing for your shop or restaurant will depend on your clientele and location, we consistently find ourselves encouraging our customers to price their tea with the same understanding of effort and ingredient cost that they employ when pricing coffee. We often find that our food service customers underprice their tea, forgetting that, while it doesn’t enjoy the same cultural status as coffee, tea is also a luxury experience that requires skill and effort to prepare and brew for the customer. Give it the pricing respect it deserves!


How to Store Tea

The other area where we commonly see tea slip ups is storage. Tea is extremely sensitive to light, air and heat and sometimes those facts get lost in the shuffle of finding storage, creating appealing displays and ensuring ingredients are easy to access.

Glass jars, which let in lots of light, are a no-go, particularly for loose leaf. Instead, we recommend copper tins, like these Rishi small and large copper canisters, which offer a lot of aesthetic appeal while still offering your loose leaf tea protection from air and light. (For tea sachets, go with this copper Rishi dispenser canister.)

Once you’ve got the right storage containers, consider where you’re storing your tea in the kitchen or behind your counter. While keeping it above or right by the brewer seems intuitive, the moist heat thrown by the brewer can often have bad effects on the flavor and quality of your tea. Instead, keep it in a dry area, out of the way of steam, direct light and excessive heat.


Looking for Guidance as You Build Your Tea Program?

We can help. Our beverage experts can provide you with all the knowledge you need to pick the right number and type of teas for your restaurant or cafe. And our extensive tea catalog provides you with every product you’ll need to provide an exceptional tea experience for your guests.