Sometimes it’s the tea…
No, it’s always the tea
This discussion has been on going for centuries and the answer has been consistent.
Upon visiting new coffee and tea cafe recently I had a chance to reflect upon this point.
Here I was in a wonderful new environment prime for exciting conversations, inspired gatherings, a place that has the potential to be etched in many memories for years to come.
Having dropped by once before, for a hot minute, I promised a return knowing I could sit for hours with a great book and a few cups of tea.
On my second visit I approached the counter and asked for tea. The wonderful friendly counter person recited the many choices that could be had.
The names sounded inviting and he even recommended a few of his favorites. I selected a green and white fusion and a decedent piece of pastry that had my name on it.
No, I did not ask if it were bagged or loose, as the environment stated, “We have great coffee we have great tea!”
My thoughts, this must be loose-leaf tea.
When my tea arrived I tried not to show my disappointment as I saw the thin string and tag wafting in the breeze as the pot was brought to my table.
Yes, I should have known by the name, but how could this be happening, this was not your typical cafe.
The coffee bags all primed for display screaming I’m gourmet! I’m imported! I’m special!
The tea is displayed in clear canisters, all looking the same hidden in the background, purposefully, out of plain sight.
Or as in some cafes, in boxes that display names of companies that line the shelves of the local grocery stores.
In the book flap introduction of “The Ancient Art Of Tea”, by Walter Peltier, tea making is described as thus:
“Making a perfect cup of tea is a dynamic process that requires the right environment, good spring water, a suitable fire to boil water, skill in steeping tea, and a deep understanding of tea connoisseurship”
Now the above statement may be suggesting a lot and many may not ascribe to the process, notwithstanding, some decent tea please.
Many of you have the right environment, use quality water for your coffee brewing, you have the fire to boil water, what’s missing is quality loose-leaf tea, and simple technique.
We live in a world where pleasant experiences bring us back for more.
A pleasant tea experience is definitely not, tea dust created for one-cup usage placed in a pot with enough water for two cups that yields a rinse at best.
When will the coffee shops and state of the art upscale coffee cafes get it?
As tea becomes a drink of choice and with the number one coffee shop in America expanding their tea offerings both in quality and choices, you will be left behind.
According to Beverage Industry Magazine in a recent article “Tea could be the next “hot” beverage”; 2013-06-10*
“As tea continues to gain traction in the mainstream arena and consumers become educated about the quality and origin of the beverage, a tea culture is brewing with interest in specialty blends, loose-leaf teas and other premium offerings, Euromonitor’s Feliciano says. “There’s a premium culture that you see with consumers starting to gain appreciation for different types of teas available, whether they’re loose-leaf, herbal teas, fruit teas (or) specialty teas,” he explains. “There are a lot of subtleties to tea that have really high potential, but there’s just not a lot of consumer awareness yet.”
Not ready for the full transition?
Adding a few artisan teas expands your reach to potential customers looking for that special tea experience and by the way, you can charge more for the loose leaf tea it’s expected.
The article continues; “As this tea culture percolates, it’s also driving growth in terms of value but not necessarily volume for the beverage segment, Feliciano notes. From 2011 to 2012, hot tea experienced a 4 percent decline in volume but a 4 percent increase in value, which represents a premiumization trend in the category. Consumers are willing to pay more for high-quality teas and even pay a premium to purchase these products on-premise, he says.” *
When I started my tea catering business, I started with bagged tea having to slowly introduce my patrons to the finer loose-leaf offerings.
That was 10 years ago much has happened since bringing fine quality tea into the picture i.e. full leaf tea in tea bags, easy infusers, et al.
My followers know the difference and appreciate the education they have gotten bringing them to the leaf.
The sign of the times, a tea company gets traded on Wall St and is purchased by a major coffee enterprise. Unilever buys a group of Australian tea cafés. Dunkin’ Donuts has tea prominently displayed on their counters and the list is growing.
That coffee enterprise has now opened their first (of many more to come) Tea Bar in Manhattan, your customer will be exposed to the finer side of tea.
A plethora of information appears in the news and social media, health benefits, beauty benefits, weight loss, not that these are all valid claims; your customers are reading this information.
Dr. Oz has a following and when he mentions oolong tea a host of people search for the tea.
The local grocery store chain has doubled the number of loose-leaf tea offerings within the last six months you can even find a pu-erh on the shelf doesn’t that tell you something.
Staying in the past when your customer is looking to the future will only lead you down the dusty tea road.
Your potential patrons are asking questions and getting answers as they become more informed they will seek out the venues that have good loose-leaf tea.
You can start simply by testing your customer base, keep your current product offering and add a small group of basic loose-leaf tea (artisan tea), feature it prominently on your menu. Many of your existing suppliers have such offerings for purchase if you ask.
You may not get volume purchases, though the cost per cup will be higher.
The next necessity is training your employees about these offerings and why they differ. Train them about the tea and how to prepare the brew.
This will separate you from your competition.
If its waste time or clean up that’s your concern there are so many ways to approach the process that are simple and foolproof, just ask.
Now is the time to offer, educate and bring a quality tea experience to your customers to keep you competitive and help your business grow.
If you need help there are many of us out here to guide you to the leaf.
The future of tea is here, why stay in the tea dust past.
If your business is in the New York, New Jersey area there is a group of trained professional tea consultants that can help the transitioning known as the Tea Consortium.
*Haderspeck, Jennifer (2013,06-10). “Tea could be the next ”hot” beverage”. Beverage Industry, pp.7. http://www.bevindustry.com/articles/86450