Tea: An Overlooked Menu Item

A White Paper Presented by : The World Tea Expo & The Night Club And Bar Show

By Chris Chantler, Co Founder - Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea Co


You don’t have to be a fortune teller to be mesmerized by tea. This simple drink is the world’s most popular beverage, second only to water. No other beverage has had such a long and prolific impact on the world. From the opium wars in China to the Boston Tea Party, countries have been colonized, conquered and lost all for the sake of this far eastern beverage. . The tea industry in America is experiencing a great tea renaissance with easy access to the finest teas from around the world. Regardless of tea’s standing in the world and its rising popularity in America, it is still an overlooked menu item in most restaurants and bars. It has always amazed me how it’s acceptable to ignore the world’s most popular beverage. It comes down to the fact that the tea industry has done a poor job of embracing the restaurant and bar industry. We in the industry have made tea an intimidating product and very unapproachable. Learning from the Coffee and Wine Industries In the ‘90s, it was easy to upgrade the coffee programs at all levels of the restaurant industry. It wasn’t just because of the increase in quality, it was a simple change that was tangible. Customers applauded the upgrade and the staff was unfazed, as nothing in service changed. When it comes to upgrading tea at restaurants, the tea industry was met with every excuse as to why it’s impossible to change. As an industry, we have been trying to upgrade the tea service in the same way as coffee. The issue being you only have one coffee, but you need to offer a selection of teas. This is when restaurants began to have challenges with tea. It is now time for the tea industry to reboot and look to sell tea in a different way. I remember my own discovery of tea and how it was as exciting as learning about wine. The complex flavor structure of tea is just like wine with similar identifiable tannins. The tannins are those compounds that create such great mouth feel. Its why we add milk to rich tannic black tea, neutralizing the tannins in the same way as a goat cheese balances the tannins in a hearty red wine. The restaurant industry understands wine. However, wine can be a rather intimidating beverage, yet most restaurateurs have an interest or have someone on staff that oversees the category. So by changing the way I presented tea to my own restaurant customers was a game changer for my business. Indeed, creating a tea menu utilizes the same thought process as creating a wine-by-the-glass menu. All wine lists would have wines representing the grape varieties and production styles – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, etc. Tea selections should be viewed the same way, having at least one tea from each category – white, green, oolong, black, flavored and scented, and herbal. Each tea should have a short description. The reaction from a restaurant customer when they ask for tea and they are given a tea menu is outstanding. The service of the actual tea can be very straight forward, using a simple small tea pot with an infuser basket. It takes the same amount of time to put a tea bag in a tea pot as it does a scoop of whole leaf tea. My wholesale clients that have adopted a whole leaf tea program now can’t imagine serving tea any other way. The obvious upside is the customer perception and the final message at the table. The other upside is that the actual cost increase is minimal compared to the increase in quality and price point. The 2021 World Tea Conference + Expo this June, co-located with the Nightclub & Bar Show, is the perfect opportunity to open your mind to tea. As you walk through the event, imagine you’re at a wine tasting. Ask all the same questions. How was this tea manufactured? Where is it from? What category is this tea? When was it harvested? What can you tell me about the tea garden? Overall, enjoy your tea journey and be ready to wow customers – whether you’re a tea business that’s educating the restaurant and bar community or you’re a restaurant or bar that’s elevating tea on the menu. Chris Chantler is the co-founder of Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea Co., which has relationships across many continents with both coffee and tea producers. To learn more about the company or wholesale inquires, visit VailCoffee.com.

Written by Chris Chantler