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One more tea rant.

I know it's come up before herein, but I just have to vent my tea wrath! DH and I had a lovely meal at The American Bounty in Hyde Park. We were served by charming hardworking students and ate imaginative well cooked food. I chose a deconstructed apple tart for dessert which was presented on a plate with a gorgeous drizzled sugar fan and a dollop of creme fresh, and then came my cup of tea. Sitting on a saucer was a little plastic handled pyrex pot full of hottish water and a tagless tea bag dangled alongside. My husband had freshly brewed coffee, with refills offered, and I got this stupid beverage that resembled tea after it sat in the cup a while.

Coffee drinkers don't get an empty cup and a spoonful of Maxwell House instant coffee. Why do we tea drinkers get this inferior product? I just don't understand how it is harder to brew tea than coffee.

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  1. Your rant is echoed whole-heartedly. They put form before function...

    By all means use a ceramic or heavy pot. But make sure it is hot before adding water. I am yet to see this done.
    Add very, very hot water. Don't use water passed through a coffe maker, or a hot water urn - it isn't hot enough.
    Teabags aren't expensive - even good tea. Give me a second one. (In my dreams!)
    For a refill don't just add hot water. Try doing that to a coffee drinker.

    Sorry to be internationally offensive, but North America in general doesn't do good Orange Pekoe. (Or any of the other grades)

    In fact I don't think one server in 10 knows that Orange Pekoe isn't the name of the plant, or method of production, or type of tea.

    61 Replies
    1. re: Paulustrious

      >> In fact I don't think one server in 10 knows that Orange Pekoe isn't the name of the plant, or method of production, or type of tea.

      I didn't know that either. In that case, what DOES it mean?

        1. re: mordacity

          Better I supply a reference rather than prove my ignorance....

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_p...

          And for slightly more entertainment...hang on - got to find this...

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrqBe9...

        2. re: Paulustrious

          Your standards are a lot lower than mine.

          Loose tea is really the only equivalent to fresh-ground brewed coffee.

          If that's not an option, there are lots of premium quality whole-leaf bagged teas available these days; they should be prepared by placing the bag in the brewing vessel and pouring boiling (or just below boiling, for more delicate teas) over it, then brought to the table. Dunking a teabag into a pot of water is simply not as effective, in addition to being messy and clumsy.

          It drives me crazy that fine dining restaurants that wouldn't dream of serving second-rate coffee won't give more than a passing thought to their tea service. Conversely, I give restaurants that do serve tea properly plenty of kudos and a special mention when I'm discussing or recommending the restaurant. I even started a thread on the SF board listing restaurants that serve tea properly.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Let's not stretch the envelope of credulity here. Most good restaurants peak out at a twinings teabag on a tampon string. At some of them they even have this enormous lustrous wooden case they will bring to the table where you can pick the teabg of your choice.

            Who could ask for more?

            1. re: Paulustrious

              Oh, that wooden case makes me laugh! It's so monumentally clueless!

              I don't know where you are, but in the Bay Area there are actually restaurants that serve proper loose tea in proper pots. Really. Here's a thread to prove it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/461767

              So it can be done (despite one ridiculous discussion where people were claiming it was just TOO HARD AND EXPENSIVE for a restaurant to serve proper tea, although apparently it's not to hard for restaurants to serve espresso and other fancy coffee drinks).

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I remember that thread very well. I was one of the people trying to explain that proper tea service is just not feasible in many cases. Serving tables is my profession. I have been doing it for 15 years now. Making tea is not too hard or expensive, but too time consuming for a busy restaurant. I do not think it is out of reach for a fine dining restaurant, though. They have more staff, more time, and often, more space.

                Yes, espresso and other fancy coffee drinks are also major time suckers, and believe me, we don't much like to serve those either, but you can charge more for them. Alot of the problem with tea is that you just can't charge premium prices for them in this country. It's a five minute process for $2.00, the same price as a 30 second coffee, (I'm in a somewhat rural area), not to mention that it takes up more space.

                1. re: hilltowner

                  In my town, I've learned not to order tea in high end places because they DO charge more - not since paying $7 for a Mother Parkers Orange Pekoe tea (a very bad cheap brand) which BTW was the same price as the dessert! It's a loss for the resto since we now skip dessert and coffe and go somewhere else.

                  1. re: tuttebene

                    But this is the missing link here. This thread is preaching to the choir. The people who have control of the service in their restaurants need to be told that their cruddy tea service (!) is costing them money. Then they'll be happy to make the effort. Did you think to tell them?

                    1. re: yayadave

                      I am a rather direct person and have no problems politely complaining or expressing dissatisfaction. However, the same can't be said about my dining companion(s) - reserved, polite, Canadians. So, in order to avoid making then uncomfortable I vote with my feet. Now when I find somewhere that serves exceptional tea, no matter what type of resto, I make sure they know how important it is to keep doing so.

                      1. re: tuttebene

                        Wonderful reply! From my experiences in Canada, a more subtle, civilized approach would make the point. They have to be told that it's to their benefit. And you're doing it.

                  2. re: hilltowner

                    I too have been in the restaurant business for over 15 years, both front of the house and back of the house, but I don't understand how a restaurant of any size can not have enough space for decent tea service.

                    A number of years ago I was in charge of the coffee and tea service for an aspiring upscale restaurant with about 200 seats. The owners approved the purchase of a number of very large espresso makers, coffee makers and even ice-tea makers along with all of the cups, pots, creamers, sugar and so forth -- all of it top notch. When I proposed a tea-service, I was told that we could "get away" with an off-brand wooden box with fifteen different varieties of mediocre bags (which was rarely replenished, so diners ended up with a choice of Cinnamon Apple, Lemon or a really low-grade green tea -- the least popular bags, with any half-way decent black tea rarely making an appearance). I tried to demonstrate that a couple of teapots, strainers, one hot water kettle and five kinds of loose tea might take up approximately two square feet, while the coffee and ice-tea service took up at least twenty (I swear that espresso maker was the size of a small car) at one-hundredth of the initial investment and they looked at me like I was out of my mind.

                    As for the time involved, it's actually quicker to make a pot of tea than to make a cappuccino as far as the actuall hands-on time. Set the kettle to boil, come back in a few minutes, fill the pot with hot water (you can make your coffee drinks now and come back to it in ten seconds or so), dump water out, add tea, add water, put on the lid and go. Steeping can be done at table -- tea drinkers don't mind pouring their own, and they'll be so delighted at having it done right!

                    Obviously, I lost that battle, kids. (And the restaurant eventually went under -- admittedly, for reasons that had very little to do with tea.)

                    As a tea-drinker myself, I'd be happy with a PG Tips tea bag with freshly boiled hot water (which has never seen the inside of a coffee maker of any kind) poured directly over it into a decent cup. I know, I know, my standards have slipped dramatically -- and yet I don't ever seem to have ordered tea in any kind of establishment which has exceeded these somewhat reasonable requirements.

                    1. re: chefbeth

                      I agree what you described is the absolute minimum.

                      And yet, when I asked the waiter in one of the top-tier restaurants in San Francisco (which will remain nameless; however, I just noticed that as I type the face of the famous chef is peering out at me from a chowtip video on the sidebar) to take the supermarket-grade teabag (Stash, IIRC) I'd chosen from one of those ridiculous boxes back to the service area and pour the boiled water directly over it into the little pot, he argued with me that it wasn't necessary and finally flatly refused. Seriously. We're talking about a meal where my Dad dropped several hundred dollars (party of five, ordering multiple courses and wine), and he chose to humilate a customer (on her birthday, which he knew), by refusing a reasonable request! Which cost him what would have been a sizable tip (15-20 percent on $400+ tab -- you do the math!).

                      That kind of attitude, in case people are wondering, is what sends tea drinkers into rants like this.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          Yup. BTW, the reason I'm not naming the restaurant is that this was several years ago, and for all I know, they've upgraded their tea service since then. I, of course, have not been back to find out.

                          It's become sort of a family joke, now (and just one of many instances that made bad service at my birthday dinner sort of a tradition, one that happily seems to have broken the last two years). When I ordered tea at my birthday dinner this year, and the waiter brought over The Box, my Mom raised her eyebrow and sort of snickered. However, the teabags were Mighty Leaf, which is actually pretty good (good quality tea in roomy "silken" pouches).

                          http://www.mightyleaf.com/tea-pouches/

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            You probably want box of empty silk bags that you fill yourself for these occasions. That doesn't mean you won't pay for the service, teehee.

                            1. re: yayadave

                              Nah. If I were going to pack my own tea, I'd bring an infuser. I have a bunch of them including a reusable cloth infuser: a wooden ring with a handle with an unbleached cotton pouch attached to it (looks a little like a wind sock with a closed end) that's big enough to hold enough tea for a small pot. I could put the loose tea in and wrap it up -- but that still doesn't address the fact that you can't get them to bring you really hot water.

                              Example of a tea sock:
                              http://www.templeofthai.com/food/beve...

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                EXACTLY, Ruth! The Teavana cup-top brewers are pretty easily portable and I've got some great loose tea at home that I'd be happy to pack ,but if you can't get properly boiled water (and I prefer black tea, so it's got to be REALLY hot), then any urban camping experience you bring to the table is wasted. Not every place (check that: no place) has an electric kettle, but I know there's got to be a clean saute pan and a stove in the kitchen, so this request shouldn't be regarded as the total impossibility that it is. And yet . . .

                                (Sidebar: One thing I did come up against while setting up the aforesaid -- doomed -- tea service is that I couldn't find an NSF-rated electric tea kettle. Health departments can be incredibly dense when they come up against a piece of equipment that they haven't seen before, so you can loose inspection points for it. The fact that it's used to BOIL WATER won't sink in with them if they don't see that little sticker. If you've ever worked in a restaurant, then you understand. If you haven't, well, all I can say is that the NSF -- National Sanitary Foundation -- sticker, is like a mandate from a higher power to the health dept. types. But a saute pan and a butane burner can do the same job in just about the same amount of time).

                                1. re: chefbeth

                                  Boiling water in the kitchen during service IS NOT an option. Period.

                                  1. re: hilltowner

                                    I'm BOH too, dude -- and most tea orders won't be in the heat of service anyway. That said, a butate burner takes up less that a square foot in a wait station or on the cold side.

                                    1. re: chefbeth

                                      And an electric kettle doesn't need watching.

                                      1. re: chefbeth

                                        Actually, I'm FOH. I just can't imagine any kitchen not having a problem with servers running in to take up a burner and boil water. Kitchens are generally pretty small. The less people in there, the better.

                                        1. re: hilltowner

                                          There is no extra room in the kitchen at my work, either.

                                    2. re: chefbeth

                                      Sounds like there's some kind of commercial possibility here in making a NSF-rated electric kettle.

                                      1. re: chefbeth

                                        We use one of these (two, actually)--NSF certified, 200' hot water dispensers.

                                        http://www.insinkerator.com/product/p...

                                        1. re: xanadude

                                          Unfortunately that's not hot enough for tea. (190F) For black tea I prefer truly boiling water that has not been boiled / heated for a long time.

                                          You get the same effect if you drink tea in the Alps at the higher ski stations. Best then to stay with coffee or gluhwein.

                                          And in some ways I agree with invinotheresverde - I'm sure there's a lot of veritas in his perspective. I never have tea in a restaurant. It's not much of a loss as I drink plenty at home.

                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        Oh, noooooo! You couldn't take THAT in a restaurant!

                                        1. re: yayadave

                                          Actually the lack-of-hot-water issue reminds me that when I travel, I favor green tea (which I bring myself, along with an infuser) for restaurants, because I must assume the water will not be hot enough (for black, oolong or pu'er) but may be just right for green.

                                          1. re: comestible

                                            Sometimes the restaurant doesn't have the cut of beef I like, so I bring my own.

                                            Sometimes the restaurant doesn't have the type of tequila l like, so l bring my own.

                                            Sometimes the restaurant doesn't have the bottled water l like, so l bring my own.

                                            Sometimes the restaurant doesn't have the type of oysters l like, so l bring my own.

                                            Or, to stay more on-topic, sometimes the restaurant doesn't have the kind of coffee i like, so i bring my own.

                                            Does bringing your own tea/tea server to a restaurant sound as bizarre to anyone else as it does to me?!?

                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                              I have been guilty of two of the three - except it wasn't tequila, but ginger beer. I have also taken maple syrup to a diner cus I know theirs isn't. Same goes for hot sauce. And for a real quirk, I have taken pickled onions to have with a ploughman's.

                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                Well, with the name "in vino" I would think that sometimes you bring your own wine to a restaurant. Is bringing tea any more bizarre than that? Or if a restaurant only offers tap water, would it be bizarre to bring your own bottled water? After all, they do provide water!

                                                I guess the difference to me is that the restaurants I'm talking about don't care about serving tea -- they only provide tea grudingly. If a restaurant doesn't care about/can't be bothered with serving tea, then why should it bother them if I bring my own?

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  I don't bring my own wine, but that could be solely because I'm in New England, which doesn't really offer corkage.

                                                  The water reference doesn't work because tap water versus bottled water are two separate entities. I would not bring my own bottle of water into a restaurant at all, but especially not to one that already offered bottled water.

                                                  Steakhouses "don't care about serving" vegetarians and only do so "grudgingly". Should I bring in my own tofu and veggies?

                                                  A restaurant isn't your home. They don't always carry what you like. If you want to make sure you can eat/drink exactly what you like, I'd suggest you eat at the one place where it's not a factor.

                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                    On the conttrary, I've often found that bringing my own tea stimulates interest and discussion with staff. They are curious about what I'm drinking and why, what's that cute device I'm using, etc.

                                                    Actually, tea is mostly a morning thing for me, and when traveling it's usually a hotel one-price breakfast or (in Europe) continental breakfast included in room fee -- so my substitution is not a huge deal as far as the restaurant itself is concerned -- it's practically buffet service anyway.

                                                    1. re: comestible

                                                      As someone who was part of the staff for many years, I can assure you that as soon as we left the table, we were calling you a whacko under our breath. Waiters work for tips. We "think" lots of things are "cute" while at the table.

                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                        Re: "Waiters work for tips." Hey, I'm a 20-percenter. Plus the management can charge me regular price for tea if I bring my own. Go ahead and laugh at me after I leave.

                                                        I just think restaurants are not going to wake up until more people bring their own.

                                                    2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                      Regardless of whether you bring your own wine to restaurants, you are aware that it's a common practice that even has it's own name, which refutes any argument that it's somehow "bizarre" for someone to bring their own beverage to a restaurant.

                                                      Tea lovers would argue that cheap bagged tea and good quality loose tea are at least as different as tap water and bottled water -- maybe more so. The difference between bottled water and tap water is (1) packaging, (2) source, and (3) variations in elements that make up only a tiny fraction of product relative to the base material (H2O). The difference between quality loose tea and bagged tea is (1) packaging, (2) source, and (3) variations in elements that make up only a tiny fraction of the product relative to the base material (leaves from the Camillia sinensis). However, considering that the base material of tea can be aged, fermented and otherwise processed, the variations between types of tea are actually a lot more significant than the variations between various types of water. Tea is, in fact, more like wine than water. How would you feel if you looked at what the restaurant billed as a "wine list" and all it had was Welch's grape juice -- wine is just grape juice, right?

                                                      The rest of your argument is silly. A meal at a restaurant has many constituent parts. Not all of those parts are going to be "perfect" and I'm not going to eat all my meals at home because after a perfectly lovely meal I can't get a decent cup of tea. The difference between wanting tofu at a steakhouse and wanting decent tea after a meal is that I'm not seeking to replace a whole meal, just one tiny fraction of it. And, I'm willing to pay "tea-age" so it's not like I'm trying to cheat the restaurant.

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        "Regardless of whether you bring your own wine to restaurants, you are aware that it's a common practice that even has it's own name, which refutes any argument that it's somehow "bizarre" for someone to bring their own beverage to a restaurant."

                                                        So can I bring any beverage to a restaurant? Can I waltz in with a McDonalds strawberry milkshake? The restaurant doesn't serve Doctor Pepper, so I'll just bring my own. You know, I could really go for a Boodles Martini right now. Where does it end?

                                                        Bringing wine to a restaurant is culturally acceptable. Bringing tea is not. You'll be labeled as "the cheap, weird lady" who brings her own tea (not sayng that IS you, rather how you'll be labeled). You may not care about what others think. If not, go ahead and bring your own tea. I'm just giving it to you from the side of the restaurant.

                                                        "How would you feel if you looked at what the restaurant billed as a "wine list" and all it had was Welch's grape juice -- wine is just grape juice, right?"

                                                        I'd order a cocktail instead, and have done so on many occasions when the wine list isn't up to my standards.

                                                        "

                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                          Why would you call a customer who brings her own tea cheap if she is paying you the menu price for tea but using her own tea leaves? (Ruth said above she'd be happy to pay, as I think it's clear any of us on this thread who care about tea would.) If anything, a customer who brings her own tea and pays for her water to brew it is saving your restaurant the few cents its lousy teabag costs.

                                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                            The few of you on this thread may be willing to pay for it, but I doubt the majority of the little old ladies that do this would. I know it's stereotyping, but those are the only people I've ever seen do this.

                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                              That's a different issue -- they're doing it to save money, and I agree that's cheap and wrong. I would do it (I've never actually done it), because the restaurant had made a conscious choice to serve an inferior product.

                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                Then I presume they are bringing their own tea bags in and asking for the water and attendant services that attend it (FOH and BOH) gratis because they are in fact, cheap.

                                                                You have stated in this thread that providing decent tea service even in a "fine dining" setting is both impractical and impossible and that no one really wants it anyway, and you have read that posters who care about tea would bring high-quality tea (and appropriate infuser, if need be) to a restaurant and pay for the privelege of drinking it there, and have responded that you would laugh at them and call them "cheap" and "whackos." If you are as representative of the industry as you portray yourself to be, perhaps the problem with restaurant tea service is less lack of interest among patrons than the attitude of those in the industry.

                                                                (Has it never occurred to you, even after reading this thread, that perhaps more than just a few customers per dinner service might order tea if they thought there was a fighting chance they might get something other than bad-quality tea in tepid water served indifferently?)

                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                  I never said providing good tea service is impractical or impossible. I said it won't happen at the majority of restaurants because there's virtually no demand for it.

                                                                  I worked with probably 500 different waiters in my service career. To the best of my knowledge, we were all of the same opinion (I can safely say this because waiters LOVE to compare the eccentric behavior of their customers, and have pretty much had this exact discussion at every place I've worked). That opinion is that people who bring in their own tea, for whatever reason, are peculiar. Would we laugh at them to their faces? Of course not. But in the back, out of customer's site is another story. If you want to think poor tea service is due to staff attitude and not lack of demand, go right ahead. I won't lose any sleep over it.

                                                                  The last place I worked used the silky teabags (I assume those are at least decent, but I'm blanking on the name) and extremely hot water. We still sold almost no tea.

                                                                  Look, I get it, you people like your tea. That's great. I like tea, too. But really, we're a small minority, which is why tea service is usually such an afterthought. I don't see how this is a difficult concept.

                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                    I don't care if the waiters laugh at me or think I'm strange or cheap. I just want a decent cup of tea and I don't think that's too much to ask. I'm English, dammit, and I can't survive without tea, especially in the mornings. Coffee tends to give me a headache. Lipton tea (what I'm served all the time abroad) isn't worth drinking.

                                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                                      I agree with you about Lipton, greedygirl, but I think you need to visit different restaurants in the United States! At least in the areas I've lived, while the water isn't hot enough, I usually have been given Twinings or Bigelow bags.

                                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                        I'm talking mainly about diners and cafes, which is where you end up eating breakfast and usually lunch while travelling. Lipton tea is also widely served on the Continent, where tea really is viewed as an aberration.

                                                                    2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                      I'm sorry, I see it was hilltowner who disavowed the practicality of tea service. I could not care less if servers think I'm peculiar or laugh at me out of my sight, and since I've found your arguments in this thread unconvincing, I'm happy to agree to disagree and leave it at that.

                                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                        Pity, I was just getting into this brewhaha.

                                                                        1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                          Brewhaha- ha ha ha ha ha!
                                                                          Good one, Paulustrious.

                                                                        2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                          Before our parting of the ways, could you humor me and answer one last question? If it's okay to bring your own tea to a restaurant, what is it not okay to bring? Can I bring whatever I want to a restaurant simply because I have a better product?

                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                            I couldn't agree more. I'm both a tea drinker and a beer drinker. Restaurants that serve good beer are just as rare as those that serve good tea, at least in the northeast. I would never dream of bringing either with me into a restaurant.
                                                                            Also, tea and beer are very similar in another respect: most beer drinkers want crappy beer; most tea drinkers want crappy tea. Part of the reason that you're not going to get good tea service in even a fine restaurant the majority of the time is that most people who order tea want a bag of CTC crap. CTC bags outsell all other forms of tea combined even in places like India, China, and England. Similarly, watery swill is the most popular version of beer almost everywhere in the world. Even people with more refined taste in food aren't likely to want a good microbrew or a full leaf tea steeped unrestricted in an open pot of water - and the water shouldn't always be boiling, as that depends completely on the type of tea, with the majority of the finer teas not tolerating water above one hundred and eighty degrees.

                                                                          2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                            Yep, it was me, but I did say that it was much more feasible in high end restaurants.

                                                                          3. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                            Tea service varies tremendously and can range from non-existent to very elaborate. Some places have specialised staff that just handle water pouring e.g. the guy with a pot of hot water that pours it in a long stream a metre away into one's cup of 8 treasure tea. While not necessary available at all restaurants, multiple types of tea ware, a fairly diverse teas list are not rare. And depending on which neighbourhood or country one is in, these types of restaurants may be in the vast majority. The "norm" in one or a few types of restaurant is not always generalisable to all restaurants.

                                                                2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                  Your posts made me laugh. Food for thought. However, I disagree with your argument because most all restos are notoriously bad when it comes to tea service. If I were a vegetarian, I would know better than to eat in a steak house. If I don't like the food at a place, I don't return. Would you suggest that those of us who love good tea should stop dining out? When most places have horrible tea and cater only to coffee drinkers, is it so wrong to bring your own leaves? Don't think so.

                                                                  1. re: tuttebene

                                                                    "If I were a vegetarian, I would know better than to eat in a steak house".

                                                                    Ahh, but the choice isn't always up to you. What if you had a work meeting to attend? There is much business conducted at steak places. We served quite a few vegetarians at the high end steak house I worked at.

                                                                    "Would you suggest that those of us who love good tea should stop dining out?"

                                                                    No, I suggest you order something else.

                                                                    "When most places have horrible tea and cater only to coffee drinkers, is it so wrong to bring your own leaves? Don't think so."

                                                                    Again, if I don't like oysters/brand of gin/cut of steak a place serves, "is it so wrong to bring your own?".

                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                      -"Would you suggest that those of us who love good tea should stop dining out?"
                                                                      -"No, I suggest you order something else."

                                                                      Well, at least we agree on something - I do "order something else" - by having tea and dessert somewhere else. As posted earlier, I vote with my feet (and smaller tab = smaller tips).

                                                                      Thank you for pointing out that tea lovers should really expect 3 things when dining out - order something other than tea (as a non-coffee drinker, I would struggle with this), bring your own leaves (LOL), or take your dessert business elsewhere. 'Tis very sad to say the least.

                                                              2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                Ha! This made me laugh and reminded me of a situation that happened when I was waiting tables several years ago. A couple was seated in my section and they pulled out two fast food sodas, complete with plastic lids and straws (my resto was a nice bistor - no disposable cups, etc). I greeted them and asked that they let me dispose of their cups. They said no, they wanted to drink them. I sought out a manager who approached them and explained that we couldn't have disposable fast food cups on the table, as it was bad for business (in several ways). They agreed to return the cups to their car. Turns out they had mixed drinks in their cups and were hoping to save themselves a few dollars buy bringing in their own. Ha! I don't remember, but I assume they didn't tip well either. :)

                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          The problem with loose leaf tea is cultural too I think. I am used to drinking loose leaf tea because that is the only form of tea I knew until I was 18. When I left home, I finally experienced the mysterious "tea bag." But most of my friends have only ever used tea bags, and they don't know what to do with tea leaves in their cup.

                                        3. re: Paulustrious

                                          Geez, you all need to bring your own darn tea and a tea ball, ask for boiling water in a cup and you'll get your darn tea and not be charged!!

                                        4. This is why I never order hot tea in a restaurant. I can even get decent, freshly brewed ICED tea, even in a fast food (non-chain) restaurant. For some reason, this doesn't apply to hot tea.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: Jen76

                                            Doesn't "freshly brewed" iced tea start with hot tea? How can you have one without the other? I suspect that the difference is that iced tea is made much stronger -- and therefore better -- so that it can be watered down with ice. But if they're brewing it fresh, why can't they just bring it to you hot?

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              Yes, but it never comes out hot from the dispenser. I can't explain it.

                                            2. re: Jen76

                                              Iced tea is made ahead of time, therefore does not take up any extra time during service.

                                              1. re: Jen76

                                                Yeah, me too. I'm a tea guy, and I've just learned from experience that it doesn't pay to order tea in a restaurant. I'll order coffee, which is almost invariably better. Or a glass of water.

                                                1. re: comestible

                                                  It's hard to generalise and depends on the restaurant. I've gotten a very nicely brewed Anxi Tieguanyin at a restaurant -- they even decanted the tea into a tea pot so that the flavour was properly calibrated. Wasn't like I could enjoy each infusion separately to follow the rise and fall of the tea's flavour, but there was justice done to the tea.

                                              2. Supply and demand, or lack of demand. We Americans don't know tea, don't demand good tea, and are totally scared of loose leaves. Thus we get what we deserve.

                                                38 Replies
                                                1. re: PeterL

                                                  Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in my little tea-centric world. PeterL, you have a point about American sensibility.Even the smallest Asian eatery can serve wonderful loose tea and doesn't even charge for it.

                                                  1. re: PeterL

                                                    Speak for yourself! Maybe the Americans you know don't know tea, but this American knows lots who do! And times change -- 20 years ago it was much harder to get a decent cup of coffee than it is now. But customers' tastes became more sophisticated, and restaurants saw it as an opportunity to upsell their customers to a premium product at a premium price.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      I think his point is that there are far fewer tea drinkers than coffee drinkers. Thus, there hasn't been a significant demand for quality tea service. As a former server, the staff I worked with always cringed when someone ordered tea. And I've only ever servered the crappy generic tea bag tea.

                                                      I am a tea drinker almost exclusively. I don't care for coffee. I have been drinking tea since I was a small child and mom would give us tea and toast for breakfast. But I don't know an oolong from a rooibos. Good black tea or sometimes aloose herbal blend is what satisfies me.

                                                      1. re: lynnlato

                                                        Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.

                                                        I've only worked at high end places. We sold virtually no tea. Maybe two or three teas would be served during an average 500+ dinner shift.

                                                        I know tea drinkers like good tea and good tea service, but there just aren't enough of you to merit much more. Tea is definitely low on the totem pole.

                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                          I don't think that's an excuse. It's not exactly hard to make a half-decent cup of tea. But it's obvious that America is not a nation of tea drinkers - whenever I'm in the States and ask for tea I'm always asked if I want "hot tea". Of course i want hot tea - iced tea is a completely different drink!

                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                            I'm just saying it's not at the top of most restaurant's radar. Almost no guests buy it. Owners are more concerned with the things that sell.

                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                              That's like saying "no one orders the steak, so we only serve select-grade Sysco steak from our freezer." if you can't do it properly, don't put it on the menu.

                                                              Or, if you don't want to put any money into tea service, then only charge a nominal amount for my tea. Don't charge me a couple of bucks for a 2-cent food-service teabag and a pot of hot water.

                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                No, because if no one ordered the steak, it'd be taken off the menu. Tea must remain in-house for the few random tea drinkers.

                                                                Also, any "good" restaurant should be serving something at least on par with Tazo bags. They're of passable quality and offer somewhat of a variety, and are easily accesible for restaurants.

                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                  But the question remains, would tea requests increase in a "good" restaurant if they became known for their competent tea service? It would not take much to be ahead of everyone else in that department.

                                                                  1. re: yayadave

                                                                    It's possible, but it's such a teeny, tiny blip on the radar that I see why it doesn't get much attention.

                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                      I think maybe folks tastes are getting more sophisticated (I tried to find another word and just could not). They might respond well to better tea service. Also, first generation may be a tiny blip on the radar, but the ripples may be farther reaching.

                                                                      I notice that any thread about tea gets a lot of action on Chowhound.

                                                                  2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                    My point is -- if you're going to offer it, it should be a decent quality product. If you wouldn't serve a frozen Sysco steak because of the quality, then you shouldn't serve a food-service tea bag for the same reason. I don't think restaurants realize how *insulting* it is to tea drinkers when they serve them a product much lower in quality than anything else they would dream of serving in their restaurant.

                                                                    Tea -- even good quality tea -- is relatively cheap and easy to store. If people rarely order it, then there's no reason why a restaurant can't keep a quarter pound (less than $10) of decent tea in a canister somewhere. And if people rarely order it, then the extra few seconds it takes to prepare and serve it shouldn't be onerous.

                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                      OK, I hear what you are saying and you have some good points, but I have one question - As the hot water spigot from the coffee machine is universally despised, how do you propose the server boil the water for your tea? The kitchen is off-limits and space is at a premium.

                                                                      1. re: hilltowner

                                                                        I'm not an expert on the logistics of restaurant prep areas. All I know is that some restaurants manage to do it, so clearly it's doable -- the issue is whether the restaurant wants to do it.

                                                                        One of my most cherished restaurant memories is the time I asked for iced tea in a little French bistro. No, they didn't have iced tea. Fine, I said, can I have hot tea and a glass of ice. The light went off the in waiter's head, and he said: *I* will make you iced tea. And he did. And he made me a refill later in the meal. That's the attitude a *good* restaurant should have, not whining and making excuses about how it's too hard.

                                                                        1. re: hilltowner

                                                                          An electric kettle? Every home in Britain has one....

                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                            And the hotel rooms! I still remember how pleased I was at arriving in my hotel room in London a decade ago, to find a small wooden chest built into the wall. It held an electric kettle, some real cups, not plastic, not styrofoam, not paper; some good tea bags, sugar, and dairy creamers...not that awful non-dairy crap. Not a packet of instant coffee in sight. :)

                                                                            I was home.

                                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                          I'm telling you from years of experience, few owners even think about the tea. They're definitely not going to keep loose tea on premises.

                                                                          If you're getting garbage tea, speak up. There's no reason to pay for something that is unacceptable to you.

                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                            Still, they are buying tea -- so why are they buying top of the line everything else, and then buying cheap tea?

                                                                            Being served a cheap tea bag and pot of lukewarm water in a nice restaurant is the equivalent of ordering a beer and getting handed a room temperature can (not even a bottle) of Coors light, because most of their customers order wine and they don't want to waste money or cooler space on "random" beer drinkers. Either serve something comparable in quality to the rest of your menu, or don't serve it!

                                                                        3. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                          Tazo bags? I don't even know what they are. I guess I'll just keep travelling with my Twinings in my handbag. Sigh.

                                                                          And "random tea drinkers". You make us sound like an aberration!

                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                            Tazo is a brand of tea. There are plenty of good American tea brands you're probably not familiar with (unfortunately, you don't encounter them in restaurants often enough). Most times, I'm given Twinings or Bigelow tea bags in restaurants, occasionally worse. (Both brands are available in almost any US supermarket; better supermarkets also have Tazo and others; better food markets still have loose teas; then, you have stores with dedicated tea selections.)

                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                              Mighty Leaf does make decent teabags, perhaps the equivalent of a solid table wine.

                                                                            2. re: greedygirl

                                                                              You're reading too much into that.

                                                                              At the places I've worked, tea drinkers are few and far between. Hence, "random tea drinkers".

                                                                              Really, that's all. :)

                                                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                  Inflection is hard to interpret here. Cool.

                                                                    2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                      Yay! What'd I win???

                                                                      My suggestion to restos who want to try out the higher end tea service - make it into a "thing", you know, where it draws the attention of other diners and then the curious order it out of curiousity and so on, and so on... This is how something becomes a marketable concept. For instance, the restos that serve pressed coffee and bring the little carafe out to the table and make a big deal out of it with the server pressing and turning. You're paying for the showmanship. Is it great coffee? It's probably okay, but it's all about the show. We need a tea show.

                                                                      1. re: lynnlato

                                                                        You're on to round two of winning--the tea show! That's it! There's a winery we love in CT that does a tea show. They serve it in a French press pot with a special pot of cream honey (or is it honey cream?). If I remember correctly, they prepare the coffee the same way. Both the tea and the coffee are excellent. Enough so that I went out to buy the exact same coffee they use from a local roaster--it was THAT good. So, for sure, bring on the tea show. I, for one, would be so happy to have that versus the sad box o'tea. I'm not saying it needs to be a tea CEREMONY (though that is very cool, too), but moving beyond "tea dust" would be a giant step in the right direction.

                                                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                          Sorry but tea in a cafetiere - wtf! And with cream! That would not impress me one little bit. If they were really that serious they'd buy a flipping tea pot. How hard can it be?

                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                            I can only say don''t knock it till you've tried it. It was a lovely black oolong--loose leaves, not a bag in sight. And it wasn't cream--it was creamed honey. Here's a link I found that explains it:
                                                                            http://www.fainshoney.com/creamedHone...

                                                                            It is miles above what most restaurants serve for tea and I found it to be impressive. As with so many things in life, you just can't please everybody.

                                                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                              Mmmm, that creamed honey looks good, KE. Never heard of it. I'll bet it'd be good spread on a croissant, etc.

                                                                              1. re: lynnlato

                                                                                Absolutely! And I remember Laurie saying it came from Asheville, though as you can see, it can be found in many places.

                                                                              2. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                But if you're serious about serving good tea, why not buy a tea pot? It just seems weird to me. Cafetieres are for coffee, not tea. I wouldn't dream of making tea in mine.

                                                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                  I guess it would seem weird until someone made it for you and you thought it was especially good. Cafetieres are not exclusive to coffee--and not just according to me or the restaurant where I enjoyed it:

                                                                                  http://www.salamandercookshop.com/ind...

                                                                                  I actually think La Cafetiere Titania Teapot is quite elegant and would make a beautiful tea show. But don't just take my word for it, it's for sale in your neck of the woods, not mine!

                                                                                2. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                  I have to agree - a cafetiere is an excellent way to serve tea.

                                                                                  I really must start a thread about the US and UK being split by a common culinary language.

                                                                                  1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                    I liked your idea for the divided by a common language thread, so I ran with it. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/615004

                                                                                    1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                      I have had tea made in a cafetiere and it's OK at a pinch but I prefer the vessel that's been used for hundreds of years - a teapot!

                                                                              3. re: lynnlato

                                                                                >>"we need a tea show"

                                                                                can get complicated here...the different types of cups (eg. aroma vs drink cup), smelling the leaves and the tea at different steps of the process...tasting each infusions separately (a seriously aged pu-erh could take hours given that some of them may peak at infusion number 10 or so.....)

                                                                                1. re: limster

                                                                                  I had some chow-ish friends over for afternoon tea, and we used both regular teacups and gaiwans, as appropriate for the various teas I served.

                                                                                  As for having a "tea show" -- how about flowering teas? They make for an impressive presentation and would demand a premium price.

                                                                                  http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/nc...

                                                                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                            There are 300 million Americans, I am quite sure a few here and there knows, loves and demands good tea. I am of course not speaking for you or me, but in general. Chinese restaurants do upsell on premium tea, but their customers are sophisticated tea drinkers.

                                                                        2. Tea drinkers have good reasons to be wrathful...here's a few more:

                                                                          1) Always having to ask TWICE at weddings and other catered functions before getting the pathetic tea they serve. 1a) and then getting lemon when you asked for milk, or vice-versa.
                                                                          2) As you mentioned, Always being charged for Each and Every Cup, while coffee refills are free. Just how Much markup do they think is fair for storing and disposing of tea bags? Grrrrr.... 2a) Being offered "more tea" and having them pour more water for you to REUSE your ONE, lonely teabag. Disgusting.
                                                                          3) "Hot" water that may have boiled six hours ago and is flat as yesterday's pancakes.
                                                                          4) Water that may have been hot a hour ago...but draws a small pool of color in the bottom of the cup.
                                                                          And the Worst offender of all?

                                                                          5) THIS Bloody thing...that holds Blazing hot water, has no safe way to hold it, and generally splashes as much water on the saucer, the table and YOU as gets in the cup...

                                                                           
                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                          1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                            I think number 5 is a bit ... well, bloody. After all, how hot can it be. I mean, it never has a lid.

                                                                            1. re: yayadave

                                                                              Number 7) if you will, the tea-to-go with pathetic teabag (that wouldn't have even brewed a 6-oz. cup) comes to you floating in a 20-oz. cup. I have Starbucks to thank for this one...yeah, i should have known better!

                                                                              1. re: comestible

                                                                                We're on a roll. And then there's the ubiquitous green-tea pots in Asian restaurants. Now I like green tea, especially with spicey food. But someone designed those pots specifically to pour water everywhere except in the cup. As you pour it runs backwards down the spout. So now they attach little rubber tubes to stop that.

                                                                                Why don't they just have a decent lip on the spout? Or would it get broken off with repetetive use?

                                                                                I have one more rant about teacups - but I will have to bring myself to the boil first.

                                                                                1. re: comestible

                                                                                  This morning I *twice* had to shout at the girl filling my cup "that's enough!" Earlier attempts to explain to her that I only want 8 ounces of water in a 16 oz. cup simply did not penetrate her skull.

                                                                                  1. re: comestible

                                                                                    Yes, this one is one of my major peeves! Although I wised up and usually ask for their smallest cup, and also to fill it only half full -- because even their smallest cup is too big for one wimpy tea bag these days! But if all else fails, I do not hesitate to rush to their trash bin, fish out the poor tea bag and dump out the offending amount of water, to recoup my tea.

                                                                                    I snicker inside, at #2 above too, when it happens to me.

                                                                                2. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                  What IS that? It looks like an upside down light bulb. Do they really serve tea in that? What's wrong with a tea pot for goodness sake.

                                                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                    It's a hot-water carafe -- some restaurants use that to "serve" the hot water you're then supposed to pour over your teabag in the cup.

                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                      That's mad. Why not just get a few small teapots and do it properly?

                                                                                    2. re: greedygirl

                                                                                      They call it a carafe server. Holds Just enough hot water for one. Cup with teabag alongside. Ugh.

                                                                                        1. re: yayadave

                                                                                          Oh, but sometimes there is a "lid". A formed piece of heavy paper that fits over the top. Honestly, I had a "lid" like that at one place. I thought, why even bother?

                                                                                          Unless I am served a proper teapot, I am very wary when pouring. Those carafe servers and the dinky metal pots invariably are designed to cause you to pour hot liquid all over the table.

                                                                                          And yet, after a nice dinner, I still want a hot beverage and hate coffee, so I order tea and hope for the best.

                                                                                          1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                                            And That! friends, is our problem in a nutshell...we Still, knowing all the pitfalls we may (and probably Will) encounter...must have our hot beverage, so we "Order tea and hope for the best."

                                                                                            Crushed hopes, piled high enough, can equal rage.

                                                                                    3. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                      I went to a wedding in which no coffee was served, only tea. But the bride and groom was in the tea business. But that's the only time.

                                                                                      1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                        oh...no wonder I get dirty looks from the waitress (realizing this years, decades later!). The way I use those carafe is to put a couple of tea bags IN it and let steep until ready, then pour into my cup, otherwise the water gets cold too quickly if you put the bag in the lame thick ceramic tea (coffee) cup and then pour water over IT. Those thick vanilla..generic cups don't hold temperature at all, much worse than glass, even.

                                                                                        Anyhow, and then some years later, I would put loose tea leaves that I bring from home in the carafe and cover it with a saucer.....

                                                                                        But no, i gave up drinking tea in a restaurant a long time ago.

                                                                                        Now, after all this rant - believe me you, I share all of the feelings of unjust that this thread has expressed- after all this rant, I've finally made peace with it. The reason? I started to roast my own coffee and manually stone grind it and Aeropress it. Though I'm still not very good at it, I've finally realized.... that the coffee served in most restaurants are pretty bad, too! I just didn't realize it because my tea-making experience is much more advanced than my coffee making before!

                                                                                        So, no more wrath...or, if looking on the other side, MORE wrath, for both bad coffee and bad teas served in the restaurants......

                                                                                      2. Being English, I really miss a nice cup of tea when I travel. America is one of the worst offenders for serving up disgusting tea. Nobody, but nobody, drinks Lipton tea in England. It's revolting stuff. I ended up taking my own teabags into restaurants. I do that in France, Italy and Spain as well.

                                                                                        My friend Henrietta imports tea from small estates, mainly in China, but she's off to Malawi in a couple of weeks. Her tea is awesome - seek it out if you can. It's drunk by Angelica Huston, no less. http://www.rareteacompany.com/about-u...

                                                                                        15 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                          Thanks for the more global view,greedygirl. I bring my own tea bags with me when I travel but I did, naively, think I could get a good cup at a top notch restaurant. Now the specialteas.com almond cookie pyramid bag will be in my purse. It is only part of a solution though, as paulustrious points out (too funny I might add), the tea water presentation can be perilous!

                                                                                          1. re: lucyis

                                                                                            And it's rarely hot enough. Any English person worth his or her salt knows that tea has to be made with freshly boiled water. And In Europe the milk is often pasteurised so that makes the tea taste off as well.

                                                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                              I think you mean the milk is *ultra*pasteurized, often from a tetrapak. Ick.

                                                                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                You can blame the water temperature on the McDonald lawsuite. No restaurant is going to bring you a pot of boiling water anymore.

                                                                                                1. re: PeterL

                                                                                                  I disagree. Too cool water for restaurant tea service long predates that lawsuit, unfortunately. It's often because a pot of hot water sits on the Bunn coffeemaker next to the coffee; the water's run through the coffeemaker and sits on the warmer at coffee-service temperature, which for most restaurants forever has been sub-McD's lawsuit temperature.

                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                    Yes, and sometimes the tea then smells and tastes of coffee. Yuck.

                                                                                                    1. re: lucyis

                                                                                                      UGH! That's the worst....coffee-tasting tea. And they look at you very strangely when you mention the problem.

                                                                                                      1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                                        Coffee-flavoured tea is the worst thing in the universe... and the reason why I never try to make myself a nice cup of tea in an American hotel room. Even if you run hot water through the thing a dozen times, it STILL comes out tainted at the end.

                                                                                                        1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                          So true!! Dh is thrilled to have a neat little coffee thingee for his brew and I pout and get a Diet Coke for my breakfast instead of coffee flavored tea.

                                                                                                          1. re: lucyis

                                                                                                            The only part of the coffee maker that touches coffee is the filter basket and the pot -- it's not like the coffee runs backwards from the filter into the water-heating part of the machine. I always just use the water heating part and take off the basket that holds the coffee filter. I then run the heated water directly into a cup, not the coffee-contaminated glass pot.

                                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                              "Even if you run hot water through the thing a dozen times, it STILL comes out tainted at the end."

                                                                                                              So much of the coffee maker is made with plastic and I swear it absorbs the odour and flavour of the coffee making it impossible to ever get water out of it that doesn't taste like coffee.

                                                                                                        2. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                                          I was a letter carrier, and usually got a "to go" from Dunkin Donuts at the start of my route and during my afternoon break. When they first started iced tea, I asked if they had it in decaf. When told yes, I ordered one with lemon and Splenda. It had a stale coffee smell and tasted worse than what you'd rinse out of an ashtray, but I was delivering mail before I took my first sip. When I returned later in the day I mentioned to the server, with whom I was on a first name basis, that whatever container they were using for the iced tea needed a good clean-out. When she told me they didn't make decaf iced tea, I realized that my morning drink must have been decaf coffee with lemon.....argh!

                                                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                            I think it Oscar Wilde who was said to have returned a cup at a restaurant saying something like "This is either too weak coffee or too strong tea. Whichever it is, bring me the other."

                                                                                                    2. re: PeterL

                                                                                                      Unless of course you live in England.