Things that make a difference

To do tea well, you need to bring your customer an experience, from start to finish. It needs to feel fresh, organised and a little serene.

Second-class citizens

Tea-lovers are as passionate about their tea as coffee lovers about their coffee. They often express feeling like ‘second class citizens’ in cafés. In fact many refuse to drink tea out. The upside of this is they love places that make an effort.

Take a moment to consider the experience you are giving your tea-loving customers.

Instant anyone?

How many cafés serve instant coffee these days? It is so old a practice I think it could work as a retro- kitsch marketing idea.

And yet, how many establishments still serve the tea equivalent of instant – the dreaded teabag?

‘But’ I hear you protest, ‘we use a good brand of teabags’.

When it comes to black paper teabags, the vast majority (note the new Madame Flavour named estates teabags are an exception) use inferior quality tea, bought at auction from anonymous estates, depending on which is lowest cost that week. Studies have repeatedly shown that in blind taste testing with tag removed; consumers cannot see, smell or taste significant difference between tea bag brands.

In my exploratory research for developing the Madame Flavour range; the major (and favourite) whinge of the tea drinker was ‘How is it when you go to a café, order a cup of tea and get charged $3.00 for a ‘add popular supermarket brand’ teabag?

I say leaf tea pyramids, specially designed to give tea leaves the space they need to infuse; or leaf tea are both acceptable alternatives. Leaf tea pyramids have the benefit of using existing systems and tea-ware if you are trading up from paper teabags.

Tea purists though will always prefer loose leaf tea, and at a café, they have the luxury of time to spend enjoying the infusion process; and no washing up to do.

Honouring the Customer

Going to a café is an opportunity to relax and socialise whilst being looked after and enjoying something more special than you would at home. The Japanese tea ceremony is the ultimate guide in how to provide this to the tea drinker. ‘Chado’ is about being grateful for the opportunity to honour one’s guest. Each meeting is to be treasured for it can never be reproduced.

How many times does anyone walk out of an establishment feeling honoured? Imagine the repeat business and word of mouth if they did! With tea more than coffee, the enjoyment is in the entirety of the experience. Assuming you have chosen good quality tea and prepared it correctly, it is the detail that will set you apart.

The Important Details

  • An interesting menu that leads customers beyond the basics whilst still catering to the core segments.
  • Descriptions of the blends and their origins, instead of the bog standard:
    • Tea: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Peppermint and Chamomile.
  • Good looking, pristine canisters and colourful emotive branding
  • Immaculately clean cup and saucer, preferably finer than a coffee cup. There is a pleasure in drinking tea from a finer cup. There is a subtle annoyance to the tea-drinker in being presented a cup with coffee company branding.
  • Accessories that show you understand and care about the experience; dish of honey with chai, extra hot water with pot, infuser pod or filter holder for removal.
  • Staff who know a little more about the teas – or a resident tea expert. I have been to cafés where on enquiring which brand of tea they served I was told ‘English Breakfast’ or ‘Hang on, I’ll see if I can find out.’
  • Little extras – a bite-size Madeleine or shortbread, or a floral garnish. A single blossom, leaning towards or facing the guest is often used in ‘Chabana’, Japanese flower arrangement used in the tea ceremony.
  • A smile, gently placing the tea in front of its owner and giving them a suggested infusion time or just wishing them to ‘enjoy’

Cafés that provide this kind of tea experience will become known for it. Tea drinkers love to spread the word.

Next time, I will delve deeper into blends and preparation. I trust these ideas stir some interesting debate, preferably over a very good cup of an intriguing new blend that has taken your fancy.

Enjoy this article? Share it on your favourite social media platform!