If you are looking for a way to boost restaurant profits, instead of thinking new foods, think: Tea, Glorious Tea! In addition to the fact that tea is the world’s second-most popular drink (next to water), and that tea represents a $10 billion industry in the U.S. alone and a $38.8 billion industry globally, specialty teas are the new cash bonanza.
This means that serving a teapot of hot water with a low-end selection of teabags at the end of a dining experience no longer cuts the mustard. Rather, consumers are clamoring for and expecting a wider array of exclusive teas that offer their palates a new taste experience, provide health benefits, and introduce them to teas from around the world.
What is Specialty Tea?
Specialty teas can be defined as whole-leaf teas that taste and look like the agricultural product it stems from. It is generally processed in smaller batches than its counterpart, commodity tea, which is mass produced. Likewise, specialty tea is handcrafted versus machine-made. Available in loose leaf or teabag format, specialty teas boast a great taste and even more, they foster the good feelings that are associated with drinking tea that comes from its natural compounds.
Types of Tea
There are essentially five “true teas” which all stem from the Camellia sinensis plant. Depending on how the plant’s leaves are processed and prepared, the five true teas are: Black tea, Green tea, Oolong tea, White tea, and Pu-erh tea. However, modern times have also given rise to a widening array of herbal beverages called ‘tea’ that are made from a variety of grains, flowers, and even mushrooms.
This vast treasure chest is good news if you are a restaurateur. Not only does it mean plenty of diversity to choose from, but specialty teas yield a higher profit margin than almost all other beverages you may serve. For example, product cost for a serving of coffee begins at about $0.60, while even the most expensive teas rarely surpass the $0.30 mark. Moreover, the equipment and start-up costs required for providing tea are minimal.
Specialty Tea: A Natural Complement to Modern Beverage Trends
The business opportunity for adding specialty teas to your menu has never been so compelling. And there is more good news to drink in: The momentum of tea closely mirrors recent successes in the worlds of juice, soda, wine, beer, and even water. Health is the name of the modern beverages game, manifest in the massive market growth of gut-friendly probiotic drinks, non-alcoholic spirits and mocktails, bottled functional waters (think protein water and collagen ‘beauty’ water), sugar-free sodas, and more. And when it comes to premium caffeinated beverages, the explosion of specialty hot and cold coffee brews speaks for itself (think lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, frappes, frappuccinos, macchiatos, iced coffee, and cold coffee-on-tap…)
Following suit, the recent upswing in the tea market is manifesting in the likes of good-for-you options such as kombucha (aka ‘mushroom tea’ or ‘red mold tea’), machta, moringa, cold-brewed oolongs, nitro tea-on-tap, CBD-infused teas, turmeric tea lattes, and more. The popularity of plant-based diets further increases the appeal of tea as a featured menu item, while its natural relaxing and energy lifting properties makes it ideal as a before-bed beverage or breakfast pick-me-up.
Spiked Kombucha Debuts in Bars Nationwide
And in the latest tea industry news, bartenders are also stepping up to the plate and into the act with innovative creations such as tea cocktails and mocktails, sencha (green tea) martinis, and organic hard kombucha, aka boozy or spiked kombucha. The latter, described as the fermented tea’s bubbly cousin, is selling like hotcakes, expected to be one of the hottest bar trends in 2020. Moreover, according to global market research firm Mintel, Fortune magazine, and reports from the wine industry, hard kombucha drinkers tend to be millennials and older millennials to boot. This is welcome 411 for bar owners, as it means their offerings have the power to attract old and young customers alike.
Add This to Your Cup of Tea
As you expand your eatery’s tea menu, be sure to add these choices when serving tea such as non-dairy milk alternatives (think soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk), and all-natural sweeteners in the form of honey, whole cane sugar, and stevia.
How to Upgrade Your Tea Service
How you present your tea products is yet another pivotal ingredient in the recipe for success. Customers pay attention to how they are being served, with a preference for unique mugs, cups, and original-style or vintage teapots, and with highly Instagrammable offerings being shared on social media sites. And when it comes to the decor of your coffee shop or restaurant, remember that the sensory experience can be a game-changer. Do some research on how to transform your serving area into a socially friendly space where millennials and Gen Z’ers (the largest eating-out demographics) will want to hang out and relax while they tantalize their taste buds with new tea tastes, textures, and aromas.
More Ways to Increase Tea Profitability in Your Foodservice
According to the experts, the best way to introduce specialty teas to your establishment is to begin with a select 3 to 6 varieties, with precedence going to tea types which compliment the foods you offer. To help you out, enjoy the following Insiders’ Tip: Green tea is recommended as an accompaniment to fish, black tea as an accompaniment to spicy dishes, white tea pairs best with salads and light desserts, while red tea is best served with sweet desserts. Finally, cold teas are the pick-of-the-day to attract customers during the warm spring and hot summer months.
Industry experts also recommend adding a professional barista or sommelier to your staff who can teach your team the art of exquisitely preparing each cup of brew, giving your business a competitive edge and your cohorts a run for their money.
Teas from Around the World
To jumpstart your journey, here is a rundown of some of the many global specialty teas available today.
- Matcha Tea: This Japanese green tea is made from the finest shade-grown tea leaves which are carefully ground into a fine powder. The drink naturally has a strong, bitter, grassy taste, which is why the leaves are usually mixed with sugar and steamed milk to make green tea latte.
- Yellow Tea: Like green tea in flavor and appearance, the rarer yellow tea goes through a longer oxidation and slower drying period. All yellow teas stem from China.
- White Tea: The mildest of the true teas, white tea is perfect for customers with caffeine sensitivities as it contains only 25% the amount of caffeine. Its tea leaves are picked at a younger age and do not undergo rolling or oxidation processes, giving rise to its mild and light taste.
- Pau d’Arco Tea: Also known as taheebo, this herbal beverage is made from pau d’arco trees that grow in the Amazon rainforest and have an inner bark full of phytonutrients. The tea is described as tasty with an interesting fruity/herby flavor.
- Barley Tea: A daily staple in Japan, China, and Korea (aka ‘mugicha’ in Japan and ‘boricha’ in Korea), this nutty, smoky, and slightly bitter beverage is made by toasting barley and boiling it for about 20 minutes. It is traditionally served cold with ice and is increasingly easy to obtain online or in specialty stores.
- Chaga Tea: One of the most popular mushroom teas, chaga tea is made from simply boiling a piece of the dried mushroom and is believed to have important health and longevity benefits.
- Chai Tea: Also rising the tea-loving popularity charts, chai tea is comprised from black tea, steamed milk, and Indian herbs and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. The drink’s flavor varies, depending on the specific spices used, however it is generally described as creamy, slightly spicy, and warm.
- Chamomile Tea: Made from the edible flowers of the matricaria chamomilla plant, chamomile tea’s claim to fame is as a bedtime beverage that helps the body relax. Its signature flavor is described as mild with a light floral and slightly sweet taste.
- Dandelion Tea: Not only are dandelions edible, with dandelion salads becoming more common in the food industry, but dandelion tea and coffee have debuted, described as light, mild, with a slight floral taste that comes from roasting the dandelion’s roots.
- Raspberry Leaf Tea: If your customers are seeking a caffeine-free option, be sure to add raspberry leaf tea to your menu. Originating from the raspberry plant, the leaves boast a long history of usage as both a tea and an herbal remedy. But don’t be fooled by its name: The tea in fact does not taste like raspberries but rather is described as grassy in flavor.
- Rooibos Tea: Caffeine-free and increasingly well-known, rooibos, aka red bush tea, originates in South Africa where it has been popular for centuries. It is consumed ‘black’ or with the addition of milk and/or sugar and its taste is described as an interesting combo of fruity, spicy, and nutty.
- Rose Tea: Made from the dried petals of the flower, the dried leaves are either prepared pure or combined with other herbs to produce a beverage described as light, sweet, and slightly tart, with sour notes ascribed to the rose petal’s malic acid and citric content.
- Yerba Mate Tea: A treat for all your caffeine-loving customers, yerba mate tea is made from the leaves of a holly tree that grows in the South American rainforests. It boasts a deep, intense taste and contains 80 mg of caffeine per cup (similar to a cup of coffee). Yerba mate is traditionally consumed through a straw and from a round wooden gourd cup.
- Lapsang Souchong Tea: A black tea from China enjoying worldwide recognition, this favorite is known for its dark and smoky properties that come from its processing method: The leaves are withered over pine fires, pan-dried, rolled, and placed in bamboo baskets. They are then smoked over smoldering pinewood fires, resulting in a distinct flavor that sets it apart from even the most exclusive teas.
- Butterfly Pea Flower Tea: When it comes to standouts, be sure to check out butterfly pea flower tea! Its striking blue appearance makes this caffeine-free variety a fascinating talking point and best-seller.
Secure Your Tea Business’s Future
There truly is a tea for every person, palate, and occasion. Be sure to experiment with new alternatives made from blending different ingredients and different modes of preparation and enjoy!