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Elevating the Tea Experience - Guest Post by Dharlene Marie Fahl

Sunday, May 28th 2017 @ 9:51 PM

It's not going to take much to elevate the current service of tea here in America, because when you're close to the bottom, the only way you can go, is up!

I've avoided ordering tea in restaurants for years, but lately, I've chosen to start ordering it to see what happens, and I've also asked others to share their tea service experiences with me. I dearly wish I had something good to report, sadly, I do not. I'm also hearing stories from previous hospitality servers on how they felt when a customer ordered tea; they hated it!

First, it's clear that tea is an afterthought with most foodservice establishments; something they feel they should have on the menu, you know, just in case. When selecting the tea to serve, it appears the thought must be that they might as well order the box with 500 teabags because the price will be much better with little consideration of the taste or perception. 

For the servers, when a customer ordered tea, they had to go searching for everything. Finding the teapots meant going on a scavenger hunt, and upon retrieving them, they felt the first hurdle had been cleared. Perhaps they could get away with simply a pot of hot water and the teabag. However, if the customer asked for milk, that meant also searching for the creamers. If a customer asked for lemon and honey, that too, meant more work for them. Some even told me that they purposefully ignored the table after dropping off the metal teapot filled with hot water in hopes that the customer would just make do.

I've had hot water brought in a thermal carafe that had clearly been used for coffee numerous times and had the server insist it was only used for hot water. I'm sure many of you know that making tea from hot water infused with the essence of coffee is never going to be a great experience.

When a brand of tea is used in a foodservice establishment that is available on every grocery store shelf for around two dollars for a box containing twenty teabags, one doesn't feel too inclined to pay $1.95, and much more, for the mug of hot water that comes with it!

Just recently, a friend told me he'd paid $6.50 for a chunky, cafeteria-style mug of hot water with a teabag laid across the top of the mug. When he asked for milk, the server clicked her tongue and stomped away, and returned much later.

The photo I've included here was how tea was served to me earlier this month. It made me reminisce about my teenage years, forty years ago; because this was the way tea was served back then! That is when it became abundantly clear to me that the service of tea in many of our restaurants in this country is way behind all the current American tea trends.

Even in the so-called upscale establishments, there is still much work to be done. The other photo I've included here is Afternoon Tea for one. I'm choosing not to name the very famous hotel that presented their $50+ Afternoon Tea this way. How does that three-tiered tray make you feel?

Tea service at this hotel is featured for ninety minutes, during which the same tea leaves remained in the pot with several servers attempting to add more hot water to the pot again and again. The first two cups of my oolong tea were perfectly enjoyable, but for the remaining ones, it tasted like pine needles had been infused and not tea leaves. To continue to add hot water to the same pot of tea for over an hour made no sense at all and certainly did no justice to the tea leaves, whatsoever. For that price, the pot should have been removed and returned with another freshly steeped one. The scone served was barely recognizable as a scone and was rock solid.

Last month, I attended a "High Tea" for approximately the same price, which lasted well over two hours. During that timeframe, the same two pots of tea were offered over six times; a cranberry orange herbal infusion and an English Breakfast tea. No savory items were featured, just tea sandwiches and desserts. In all fairness, though, the lavender scone was one of the best scones I'd ever tasted. The dried-out bread on all three selections of tea sandwiches was not at all pleasant.

All I'm talking about are the basics; being prepared for the basic service of tea in foodservice establishments, basic Afternoon Tea standards, and basic knowledge of the tea being served; anything above what we are currently faced with, will be an improvement. 

Elevating to the basics is still beyond what seems to be happening in America.

I'll have more experiences and suggestions to follow. In the meantime, I'd be happy if you shared your experiences with tea in foodservice establishments with me on my FACEBOOK PAGE.


~ Dharlene Marie Fahl -

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DHARLENE MARIE FAHL is a Certified Tea Specialist, World Tea Traveler, Author, Poetess, Tea Goddess, Blogger, Mother of Two College Kids, and Lover of Life. Dharlene says, “Tea brings me great joy and I share that joy with as many people as I possibly can. I see tea as the bridge to other countries and cultures. While people are sipping the tea I make them -- I take them across that bridge.” - Learn more about Dharlene’s work at

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