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Building the Perfect Restaurant Tea Program

June 26th, 2018

At Pluck we spend every day customizing tea programs for a wide range of customers – from cafes to restaurants, law firms, and one-of-a-kind tastemaker chef collaborations for the Visa Infinite Dining Series. We have a few tricks up our sleeves.

Building the ideal restaurant tea program is a bit more art than science, but once you have considered the following aspects of your unique establishment, it is really very simple.  

For anyone interested in improving their restaurant tea program, it is important to take into consideration:

The type of food on the menu. A casual restaurant famed for its pizza should have a simpler and more accessible tea list than a fine dining room would.

For the casual restaurant tea program , I would lean heavy on iced tea options to leverage the craft iced tea trend, and provide some traditional hot teas such as Orange Pekoe of York, Earl Grey Cream, and Harvest Mint with a lemon ginger (CTRL+ALT+DEL) as a tummy settling, refreshing herbal.

For the fine dining room, a wider tea range featuring premium blends that offer flavour profiles that pair with the dessert menu and cocktail / 0% beverage programs would be ideal. How about our Sunset in Niagara, featuring cabernet franc and icewine grape skins from Southbrook Vineyards? Or Verbena Blues, a show – stopper of a blue tea that turns colour with a splash of lemon juice. This is also an opportunity to feature some premium direct – trade teas from our Founder’s Collection series, and charge a bit more for those options.

Service style.  Is the establishment laid – back, high volume / fast turnover, old school traditional, or somewhere in between?   

In a casual quick service environment, a teabag arriving to the table simply steeped in a cup of hot water may be perfectly ok.  Traditional service? Time to break out those teapots and tea presses. We offer several options for restaurant tea service at Pluck.  

Regardless of service style, there are a few simple rules to follow:

  1. Pay attention to portioning.  If you are serving take – out tea in a 16oz cup, you are going to need to double up on your tea leaves. We offer portioning tools to all of our loose tea restaurant customers free of charge, and they are sized either for an 8-12 oz portion, or 12oz – 20oz.  Or, simply use two of our teabags instead of one if you are working with our bagged tea program.
  2. Always add water to tea, never the other way around.  Teabags should be steeped for the customer in the service area, ensuring that the water is hot enough to extract the full flavour of the leaves. Pots of hot water arriving to the table with a teabag on the side have had time to cool, and therefore will not produce an optimal cup of tea. If you are guilty of this, simply pour water over the tea bag into the pot or cup, and you have improved the quality of your tea service considerably.
  3. Make it a habit to get the tea to the table within 1-2 minutes of adding the hot water. Tea can become oversteeped if it is allowed to sit in hot water for too long.  See our article: The Three T’s for more info.

Equipment on site.  Do you have a red tap coming off a coffee brewer, an espresso machine, or a multi – temp tower?

All of these options can work, and we can walk you through how to optimize your unique restaurant tea program to the equipment and service tools you have on site.  Regardless of where your water is coming from, it is important to calibrate the equipment regularly to ensure you have water that is at least 195 degrees F. Lower water temperatures = less extraction.  Be sure to use fresh water as water that has been re-boiled several times will not produce the most flavourful cup of tea.

Once you have considered all of the above, there are a few teas that every restaurant should have on their menu:

  1. English Breakfast or Orange Pekoe.  These are traditional black teas that any tea drinker would love.  They are blends of black tea leaves only, no flavour added. Feel free to change the name on your menu and claim these as your own, ie. ‘Acme Restaurant’s Signature Black’
  2. Earl Grey.  Our most popular by far is Earl Grey Cream, but we also offer a traditional Earl Grey Classic.
  3. A green tea.  Fields of Green is a beautiful, easy – drinking green, and Movie Night has prominent toasty notes from popped and toasted rice kernels.
  4. A mint tea.  Harvest Mint is our most popular classic mint, but we also offer a chocolate mint blend (After Dinner Mint) as well as Spa Day, a blend of mint, chamomile, hibiscus, and rose.  Caffeine – free.
  5. A non – mint, caffeine – free herbal.  Here’s where you can have some fun. From our lemon ginger (CTRL ALT DEL) to a wide range of rooibos and herbal blends, we offer many options to pair with your restaurant’s menu.

Once you have these five, select one more tea that expresses your menu’s signature style.  Our tea box holds six or eight teas to allow for creativity as the seasons change.

Remember, tea is often the last thing your tea loving customers taste during their time in your restaurant, and it can leave a lasting impression (right before they pay the bill, decided on the tip, and make plans to return).  Make it a great experience!  We would love to help.

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