Here's Why You Should Be Using Tea on Your Menus

There are so many innovative ways to incorporate tea into a restaurant, from one-off dishes and flavor infusions to signature cocktails and hot or cold tea on the menu. (Photo by: polack / BigStock.com)

Customers are always looking for unique experiences when they dine out. They want to try unique things they normally would not make for themselves at home.

Enter tea.

Using different types of premium teas to create one-off dishes, flavor infusions and signature cocktails are just some of the ways to create that special experience with tea – in addition to incorporating specialty teas on the menu.

For instance, Josh Belt, foodservice key account manager for Stash Tea, says a grilled pork chop served with an Asian pear/green tea glaze or a double spice chai-infused Old Fashioned can add depth or create an unexpected menu. Of course, a restaurant can still serve brewed tea (hot or cold), as well – anything from green, white and black teas to oolongs, matcha and more.

Belt says Stash Tea has a section of its website dedicated to cocktail and meal recipes. The company also offers more than 80 teas for wholesale trade, restaurants, bars and institutional customers. Their wholesale site is available here.

“We’ve increased our offerings of new and unique ways for Stash to partner, by creating a growing library of tea-infused recipes, hot and cold beverages, cocktails and mocktails, recipe collaborations, brand activations and partnerships,” says Belt, who notes that finding the right teas that can be used for numerous applications at a restaurant is key.

Using Tea in Cuisine and Cocktails to Increase Revenue

According to Belt, tea is one of the most profitable items within any restaurant. “It is shelf-stable and requires minimum labor to produce a great product for their customers,” he says. “For a low cost, tea is a versatile ingredient that provides a ton of flavor. It can be used in syrups, infusions, cocktails, hot and cold brewed, and a wide variety of other recipes. The markup on a brewed cup of tea is also incredibly high, at 100 percent or more.”

Meaghan Thomas – who owns Pinch Spice Market, an online organic spice company that also sells tea – says high quality tea should be celebrated on a restaurant’s menu and shown off in photos. “Create visually stunning tea cocktails or mocktails adorned with fresh fruit, spices, flowers and shaped ice to draw in the curious,” she says.

Thomas suggests going a step further and thoughtfully pairing tea creations with specials and looking at other ways to elevate tea at your establishment. “Train your team on how to talk about your tea drinks,” she says. “As your sommelier pairs your short ribs with a fine Barbera Italian red wine, so should it be paired with your new black tea cocktail, as black teas have the deepest, richest flavors and the highest tannin content,” says Thomas.

Related: #NCB2021 Brings World Tea Conference & Expo to Las Vegas

If you're not sure how to pair teas with food, ask your tea supplier for suggestions. Thomas says to keep in mind that for the main types of tea [white, yellow, green, oolong, black and dark teas], white teas tend to have the lightest, more subtle flavors, and as you move up the color spectrum towards the darker colors, the teas get "heavier,” and the flavors deepen.

For example, Thomas says she would pair a white or green tea cocktail with a gourmet salad or light tilapia, and for heavier, more vibrant, or punchy meals like a steak or a Vindaloo curry, she would go with a bold, deep-colored tea, whether hot or iced.

As a restaurant creates more upscale and tantalizing tea cocktails, mocktails and desserts, it can charge a lot more than the typical "vodka and cran" cocktail or basic chocolate cake, according to Thomas. She says teas, overall, are a great way to boost profit margins without incorporating super expensive ingredients.

Even Breweries Can Work with Tea Businesses

Kelly Hackman, owner of The White Heron Tea & Gifts in New Port Richey, Fla. says she helps her husband, Bryan, owner of Cotee River Brewing Company, by supplying his brewery with teas for special tea beers, as well as other establishments.

Hackman says tea offers numerous options for flavor and style. “We work with the brewer to determine what they're going for with their beer – whether it be a dark beer, a light beer, something real hoppy, something not so hoppy.”

Photo: Cotee River Brewing Company

After determining a flavor profile, breweries work with Hackman to use a tea that will help induce the desired flavors into the beer. So far, she’s had great success with several tea and beer collaborations. She’s even placed iced tea and carbonated, sparkling tea on tap for some establishments.

Hackman says the sparkling tea on tap has been wonderful because some customers want to visit breweries or bars, but they do not necessarily want to drink alcohol. This gives them a unique option – something bubbly and different. She says it’s been a great way for her tea business to work with different bars, so they can serve non-alcoholic options to guests.

Grow a Tea Garden, Make Herbal Tea

Toasted Oak Grill & Market in Novi, Mich. has been growing its own herbs to make dried herb seasonings, and the restaurant’s chef, Lori Hamilton, recently added a tea garden. Now they make their own house herbal tea.

Ferris Anthony, director of food and beverage with Toasted Oak, said they started growing their own herbs for tea and making herbal tea during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, they’ve found sustainable teabags online, because they’re all about biodegradable and eco-friendly solutions.

Photo: The garden at Toasted Oak Grill & Market

Anthony says Hamilton decided to take it upon herself to say, “Hey, I want to take part of the garden and just make my own tea garden.” She planted chamomile, pineapple sage and chocolate mint, among others.

Related: What to Expect at #NCB2021

Anthony notes they don’t have tea on the menu just yet, but they hope to go live and sell tea like crazy in the future. “So, all the dried herbs, we hang them right in the bar. All we have to do is pull them right off the drying racks, crush them up and put them in the bags, and then they can be served for dinner service.”

Anthony expects this new herbal tea adventure to bring in revenue – “especially because we grow everything onsite,” he says, “so it's barely any cost to us.” For the future, they plan to grow a wider variety of tea herbs that they can brew and serve herbal tea in 2022.

Photo: Herbs drying out at the bar at Toasted Oak Grill & Market

Learn More About Tea and Restaurants

To go more in-depth and learn about the many ways tea can benefit your restaurant or bar, attend the upcoming Nightclub & Bar Show, co-located with the World Tea Conference + Expo. The events take place June 28-30, 2021 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to Questex, organizer of the two events, the strategic co-location will create exciting new opportunities to connect buyers and sellers of tea and tea related products with the bar and restaurant industry.

Registration for World Tea Conference + Expo will open soon at WorldTeaExpo.com.

Early-bird registration for Nightclub & Bar Show 2021 starts at $99 and expires May 17, 2021.
Register at NCBShow.com/Register.

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