I’ve got a deep, dark secret.
I almost never order hot tea in restaurants. If I need a hot beverage with or after my meal, I order coffee.
I have reasons for my treachery: Most restaurants don’t serve good tea, and even if they do, they don’t always know how to serve it. In fact, some of the biggest tea blunders that I’ve encountered were perpetrated by restaurants that specialize in “afternoon tea”.
Take one Chicago restaurant, which shall remain nameless, that boasts a Saturday afternoon tea service. They have a credible tea selection and even manage to serve it in high-quality teaware. Where they fall down is with the water: They insist on heating their water to a temperature corresponding with the type of tea served (i.e., cooler water for green tea, near-boiling for black tea). This is wise. What is not wise is failing to develop a process for getting the tea out to customers sitting at the same table at the same time. Even worse, the restaurant can’t manage to get hot water refills to customers either.
(Suggestion: Two separate hot water dispensers, one holding water at 180° F and the other keeping the water at 208° F, should sort out water-matching problems pronto.)
Another restaurant doesn’t have proper teaware for loose leaf tea service. Tea is served in tiny, individual pots with even tinier cups. The pots don’t have an infuser, and the tea must be poured into the cup through a strainer. Any leftover tea, and there is leftover tea because the cups are so small, sits with the tea leaves, getting more bitter and disagreeable by the second.
(Suggestion: If a restaurant doesn’t want to invest in teapots with built-in infusers, it needs to make sure that the capacity of its teapots and its teacups match up.)
One of my most disappointing tea experiences occurred at a lovely hotel famous for its afternoon tea. Everything about the experience was good, particularly the food, except that the tea menu listed only one unflavored black tea on its standard tea menu. Unflavored black teas are particularly food-friendly, especially when enjoying a meal of cakes and sandwiches. Yet every other tea was either flavored, some other type of tea (green, white, oolong) or an herbal tisane. What I wanted was a traditional Assam to stand up to a spread of finger sandwiches and pastries. What I got was a somewhat weak Yunnan black, tasty, but not ideal.
(Suggestion: Restaurants and tea rooms that serve food with tea should focus on their black tea selection, while offering other options for those who prefer them.)
What are your pet tea peeves?
© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.