Tea at a restaurant used to be a simple business: an anonymous bag hanging limply out of some lukewarm water, the ordering of which marked you as an invalid or New Age health nut. But lately, ordering tea has ascended into another realm, a ritualistic ceremony with enough bowing and scraping to transport the diner to the days of the Raj. Entire sub-menus are devoted to tea, cataloging exotic varieties with long, florid descriptions.
For a long time, tea was an afterthought in restaurants. It fell behind wine, coffee, and even water. You’d visit the finest restaurants, have an amazing meal, and then finish with lackluster and poorly steeped teas. But that is changing. Over the last few years, a gradual shift in retail perception of tea has trickled down.
So why exactly should a budding chef or manager, someone who dreams of one day making a mark on the industry through their culinary or managerial prowess, exert the effort to create and curate a quality tea program? Why should they even care? In the end, my ideas have distilled down to three reasons why tea and tea service should be important to every restaurant professional. They are:
- Tea is every bit as complex and nuanced as wine.
- Tea and tea service should be held to the same standard as any other part of a meal.
- Tea is a valid alternative to soda, juice or “mocktails” for those who, for religious or personal reasons, opt to abstain from drinking alcohol.
To me, tea service is good service and good service must include proper tea service.
In the end, tea matters.