Making Tea. Cafes, You’re Doing It Wrong – by Lucy Watson
So, I don’t drink coffee. Weird, I know. Let’s just move past that. Because this isn’t about coffee. This is about tea. Proper, delicious, old fashioned tea. Not fruit tea, or green tea, or chai, or sleepy time. I mean English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Melbourne Breakfast, milk-on-the-side tea. And why am I talking about tea? Because almost every cafe, sandwich shop and restaurant in Melbourne gets it so, so wrong.
Why is that? Why is a town as obsessed with good coffee so unable to serve tea properly? Why do they not treat tea with the same reverence they treat watered down ground java? It costs the same as a cup of coffee. So why should tea drinkers not get the same respect as coffee drinkers? It is the drink of kings and queens. It is served in great splendour in the world’s best hotels. It is the perfect accompaniment to crustless sandwiches. You don’t have high coffee, do you? No.
So baristas, and waiters/waitresses of the world, I don’t care how many leaf patterns you can put in the top of a latte. I beg you, take note of these few simple tips and learn to make proper, delicious tea, the right way:
1. The longer you leave tea, the stronger it becomes.
I know, it’s not rocket science. So stop getting it wrong! The longer you leave tea leaves in water the stronger they get. And there’s a point where the tea goes from strong, rich and delicious, to bitter and undrinkable. You have about 2-3 minutes tops. So stop making the tea first and then the coffees! It’s just rude, frankly. Make the tea last, and put the water in just before you bring it to the table. Or, if possible, let them put the water (or teabag) in themselves.
2. Everyone likes their tea a little bit differently.
Just like coffee, everyone likes to have their tea a little bit differently. But unlike coffee, where you can order a latte, or an espresso, or a cappuccino depending on how you like it, with tea you just order it with milk or without. Sure you can choose the type of leaves you want, but that’s just like choosing a type of coffee bean. It is not a serving suggestion. So that’s why you need to provide so many bits of paraphernalia when you serve tea. I know it’s annoying to assemble so many bits and pieces, but people need to make their tea just the way they like it. It’s a ritual.
3. They will probably want a second cup.
Making a pot of tea that has water for two cups but no way to remove the tea leaves is infuriating. You either have to skull your first cup, and risk third degree burns to get a second cup. Or you resign yourself to drinking a cold, bitter concoction that consists of a splash of over-brewed tea and a cup full of milk. And even then it’s still undrinkable. So yes, use leaf tea rather than tea bags if you want to be fancy. But give the customer a way of removing the leaves (there are teapots that allow this, or tea leaf holders) when their tea is the perfect strength for them. I have gone to great lengths to remove the tea leaves, with a spoon, or with a water cup and a strainer, just to get my second cup.
4. They will need somewhere to put the teabag.
If you’re making tea for someone in a takeaway cup, think about the teabag. Ask them if they would like you to leave the bag in or take it out. If people like it strong, then they won’t mind if you leave the bag in. But if they like it weak to mid-strength, they’ll probably prefer to have you take it out after dunking it in and out a few times, rather than find themselves walking down the street with a hot, wet teabag, looking for a bin.
5. You only have a splash of milk in tea.
Again, this goes for takeaway tea. If you are putting milk in someone’s tea for them, ask them how much milk they want. It is so annoying when I have paid $4 for a teabag and hot water, and the whole thing basically tastes of milk, because the person making it is used to making coffee. Yes, in coffee you will often put almost half a cup of milk. In tea you generally put a splash. And not much more than that. Unless someone happens to like it like that. And they will tell you if you ask them.
6. Charging more for a large tea than a small tea is ridiculous.
Ok, final tip. If you have two or three sizes of coffee, and you charge different prices for each size, this makes sense. You are using more milk, and more coffee to make it. But if you are charging two or three different prices for tea based on size this is blatantly ridiculous. You are charging people a dollar more for hot fucking water. So don’t be a jerk. Just have one price.
And that’s it. It’s not that hard. Please sort it out, I am so sick of paying good money for something I can barely drink.
A good cup of tea is one of life’s great joys. Don’t ruin it.
Do you have any tips of your own for making good tea?