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Tea vs coffee...I need your help!


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#1 teafan91

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 03:00 AM

Hi all,

I'm looking at starting a new coffee/tea bar and I could really do with your help! I want to focus on a large variety of high quality tea, instead of focussing on coffees, like most other places do. Having said that, I love coffee too and will also be serving the usual americano, cappuccino etc.

Tea is the second most popular drink (after water) in terms of amount consumed per day, yet costa and starbucks etc serve much more coffee than tea. What I would like to know is what would make you buy a tea (or derivative of tea) drink, or what's wrong with tea?

 

Thanks!



#2 Simon_S

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 03:44 AM

There was a tea bar I used to frequent here in Dublin that I thought did a very good job. They had a massive (almost bewildering) selection of tea stocked on shelves all around, and each one had its own little sample jar so that you could examine and sniff and touch and feel and compare and contrast before the tea was even brewed. The staff themselves were incredibly knowledgeable and were able to explain differences between first flush and second flush, etc., and really tried to guide you to the right choice. There was a certain reverence to the preparation, and that extended to different pots for different styles of tea and, needless to say, cups that were designed for tea rather than coffee. They sold other tea-related stuff, including tea-flavoured sweets and other tea accompaniments, and they also served a small but very tasteful selection of sandwiches at lunchtime. It was, all told, a brilliant place.

 

Of course, it closed after a few months.

 

The problems?

 

For starters, they were too slow. The reverent approach was great the first few times, or when you were in a position to relax and genuinely enjoy it, but at peak times it all just took too long. Waiting 10 minutes for the tea to arrive at your table just doesn't cut it when you have to get back to the office. Since the place only had 4 or 5 tables (it was tiny) the slow speeds meant that tables didn't turn quickly. If you weren't there at the start of lunch hour, you weren't getting in at all.

 

Perhaps as importantly, they didn't serve anything for the "normal" tea drinker. My typically Irish parents love tea, and they drink gallons of the stuff daily from what I can tell, but whenever I tried to bring them there they correctly assumed that they'd feel uncomfortable. They wanted normal Irish tea, they wanted to put milk and sugar into it, and they didn't want this fancy-pants stuff. As a consequence, despite being big tea drinkers, they never went to this place. I'm 100% sure there are many others like them.

 

Best of luck with the venture.



#3 teafan91

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 04:12 AM

There was a tea bar I used to frequent here in Dublin that I thought did a very good job. They had a massive (almost bewildering) selection of tea stocked on shelves all around, and each one had its own little sample jar so that you could examine and sniff and touch and feel and compare and contrast before the tea was even brewed. The staff themselves were incredibly knowledgeable and were able to explain differences between first flush and second flush, etc., and really tried to guide you to the right choice. There was a certain reverence to the preparation, and that extended to different pots for different styles of tea and, needless to say, cups that were designed for tea rather than coffee. They sold other tea-related stuff, including tea-flavoured sweets and other tea accompaniments, and they also served a small but very tasteful selection of sandwiches at lunchtime. It was, all told, a brilliant place.

 

Of course, it closed after a few months.

 

The problems?

 

For starters, they were too slow. The reverent approach was great the first few times, or when you were in a position to relax and genuinely enjoy it, but at peak times it all just took too long. Waiting 10 minutes for the tea to arrive at your table just doesn't cut it when you have to get back to the office. Since the place only had 4 or 5 tables (it was tiny) the slow speeds meant that tables didn't turn quickly. If you weren't there at the start of lunch hour, you weren't getting in at all.

 

Perhaps as importantly, they didn't serve anything for the "normal" tea drinker. My typically Irish parents love tea, and they drink gallons of the stuff daily from what I can tell, but whenever I tried to bring them there they correctly assumed that they'd feel uncomfortable. They wanted normal Irish tea, they wanted to put milk and sugar into it, and they didn't want this fancy-pants stuff. As a consequence, despite being big tea drinkers, they never went to this place. I'm 100% sure there are many others like them.

 

Best of luck with the venture.

That's really helpful, thank you! I think there is a gap in the market where I am, but it sounds like I'll need to be really careful. It's important to find out what people actually want, and it sounds like a balance...no easy thing!



#4 Hassouni

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 07:55 AM

Where are you located?



#5 Lisa Shock

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 11:59 AM

I hate tea bags. I can taste them. I also hate the empty bags you perch on a stirrer that tea shops use to brew one cup of whatever, once again, I can taste them.

My main issues with Starbucks is that they give you hot water and a teabag (or two depending on size) of their own proprietary blended tea. So, then I wait for the tea to steep and get to drink it 4-7 minutes later. (while coffee people can drink their brew immediately) And, it's ok, in a supermarket type tea way, but it's not seriously good tea. Kind of funny in comparison to the way they treat coffee...

Oh and, honestly, I love Twinings' Earl Grey and find most other EG's too perfume-y. That's my only supermarket tea brand prejudice. If I had a tea shop, I would definitely offer Twinings' EG, perhaps not as the only, one but prominently.

If I had a tea shop, I guess if I wanted to stock a huge variety, I'd have to use the empty bags. But, that said, I'd look into brewing without paper filters/bags and having some sort of vacuum pot setup to store/serve 4-5 of the top types of tea prebrewed and ready to go. This might be nice for customers in a hurry, since it's ready to drink. They won't have to wait for steeping. With all of the effort going into coffee machines, you'd think we'd have better tea machines as well.

#6 Will

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 12:57 PM

I think tea service in a setting like that is just tricky to do right. Tea has a lot of variables (and a lot of personal preference) in terms of how it can be made.

I would start with figuring out your approach to water. Good water is very important to tea -- that includes the water itself, as well as how it's heated. A good spring water with not too high TDS would be ideal, but I understand that's not practical in most shop settings, so I'd say an industrial strength carbon filter system (not RO) would be ideal. If you can use some Zojirushi water boilers and some smaller electric kettles, this will probably give better results than most industrial strength boilers like a Bunn or something.

 

Education is the other thing - there are a lot of people with good experience in preparing coffee, but with tea, you'll need to educate your staff on a continuing basis. While I'm not a fan of the "scientific" approach to tea making in my own tea brewing, I think it's important for consistency in this kind of setting.

That is, X grams of tea (using weight is far preferable for tea than volume), water at X temperature, steep for X amount of time (or, alternatively, for this last parameter, give the customer a recommendation of when to pour, but give them the ability to choose when to pour the tea, so that they can control the strength).

 

With the teaware, I'd say try not to get super fussy, but I would suggest white porcelain for the drinking vessel, and either porcelain or glass for the brewing vessel.

 

If you don't have a lot of experience choosing tea, I'd get some help in terms of finding suppliers and choosing the actual teas.


Edited by Will, 25 April 2013 - 01:03 PM.


#7 Will

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 12:58 PM

I hate tea bags. I can taste them. I also hate the empty bags you perch on a stirrer that tea shops use to brew one cup of whatever, once again, I can taste them.

Yeah, I think loose leaf is basically a given in a case like this. And definitely offer loose tea and good teaware for sale in addition to serving it at the shop.



#8 Hassouni

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 02:43 PM

I second the rec for a Zojirushi set up - have at least three - one at boiling, one at a bit below boiling, and one at 175 or so. Nothing pisses me off like a cup of hot water and a teabag next to it. 



#9 Ericpo

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 03:24 PM

Hmm, well to answer your original question, what is wrong with tea?

 

For me it is usually just not strong enough. I like tea, but I like it strong. I like strong flavors, and too often when I order tea out it is watery. No substance or flavor or CAFFEINE! A well brewed tea is IMO the equal of coffee, but so often they are pale shadows. This has led to me ordering only coffees when dining out, and brewing tea my own self.


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#10 Lisa Shock

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 05:23 PM

Another secret is to develop speedy service, especially for carryout. Most places have policies whereby a customer should be able to place their order within a minute or two and get their food/drink in another minute or two.

#11 annachan

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 08:29 PM

I like tea so I do frequent tea shops. The places I go to are generally in 2 categories. Once type generally concentrates on selling tea for home/personal use. Those places may offer some samples, not usually somewhere for people to sit down and have a cup of tea. Then there are places that are more restaurant/cafe type where people will enjoy a cup of tea, but usually with food (i.e. afternoon tea, brunch). I have been to some places that you are just there to have tea and little else, but those places don't tend to last. Even Teavana gave up on serving tea at their shops and tend to only offer samples now. Loose leaf tea to go just doesn't seem to work well, with the care needed for a good brew vs. the minimal wait time that customers want.

#12 teafan91

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 01:03 AM

Hmm, well to answer your original question, what is wrong with tea?

 

For me it is usually just not strong enough. I like tea, but I like it strong. I like strong flavors, and too often when I order tea out it is watery. No substance or flavor or CAFFEINE! A well brewed tea is IMO the equal of coffee, but so often they are pale shadows. This has led to me ordering only coffees when dining out, and brewing tea my own self.

There seems to be a recurring theme here...the tea available isn't good or personal enough, whereas the coffee is fine. Do people agree with this?



#13 egalicontrarian

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 08:05 AM

I think presentation is important - so decent looking pots and cups for people who want to drink their tea at the shop. Also, if you want to really make people happy, give people little timers with recommended times so they can remove the leaves (whether in bags or infusers), and ask for hot water later for a second steeping. Very few places do this, and it's a nice touch (and helpful to people who aren't as familiar with tea drinking).

 

As an illustration of why this is important, I live in the Research Triangle area in North Carolina, and we have a lot of great coffee shops, and they usually have a halfway decent selection of loose-leaf teas. However, it's near-universal to serve the tea in French press pots. This is annoying, because while the apparatus does keep the leaves in the pot, it causes the tea to (1) oversteep and (2) it prevents a good second steeping.


Edited by egalicontrarian, 26 April 2013 - 08:08 AM.


#14 egalicontrarian

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 08:11 AM

There seems to be a recurring theme here...the tea available isn't good or personal enough, whereas the coffee is fine. Do people agree with this?

 

I think my above suggestion of a decent presentation, with little timers for steeping and letting customers know they can resteep gives a nice personal touch. In terms of quality, I think it's nice when a place has a sort of standard selection of loose-leaf teas: a jasmine, a "china green," an assam, an oolong, etc. I'm always especially impressed if a coffee shop has Lapsang or Pu-erh. Although it seems you're interested in better than the standard small selection. My favorite establishment in the world, Goldfish Tea, is a nice example of a good seletion (although they don't list everything online).


Edited by egalicontrarian, 26 April 2013 - 08:15 AM.


#15 Will

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 02:25 PM

As an illustration of why this is important, I live in the Research Triangle area in North Carolina, and we have a lot of great coffee shops, and they usually have a halfway decent selection of loose-leaf teas. However, it's near-universal to serve the tea in French press pots. This is annoying, because while the apparatus does keep the leaves in the pot, it causes the tea to (1) oversteep and (2) it prevents a good second steeping.

I also don't love the "French press for tea brewing" thing, but one suggestion I saw recently that was really good is to put the leaf on *top* of the press portion. That serves two functions -- 1, makes it easier to take the leaf out of contact with the water, and 2, prevents the user from actually pressing on the tea leaves.



#16 liuzhou

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 06:09 AM

Another secret is to develop speedy service, especially for carryout. Most places have policies whereby a customer should be able to place their order within a minute or two and get their food/drink in another minute or two.

 

I think that is the opposite of what should be done. It isn't McDonalds. Would you go to a fine wine tasting and belt back as many bottles as you could in record time?
 
I live in China and on the street where I live there has to be at least 20 tea shops. There are literally thousands in the city. Drinking tea there is a slow, relaxed sedate process.

Edited by liuzhou, 27 April 2013 - 06:34 AM.


#17 Lisa Shock

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 08:13 PM


Another secret is to develop speedy service, especially for carryout. Most places have policies whereby a customer should be able to place their order within a minute or two and get their food/drink in another minute or two.

 

I think that is the opposite of what should be done. It isn't McDonalds. Would you go to a fine wine tasting and belt back as many bottles as you could in record time?
 
I live in China and on the street where I live there has to be at least 20 tea shops. There are literally thousands in the city. Drinking tea there is a slow, relaxed sedate process.


That's a key business decision that the TC will have to make. Will he be able to make enough money to cover his rent and other business expenses by table service alone, or does he need a strong carryout clientele to make it profitable? Can't say without knowing more about the location. I HAVE known people to go under by ignoring carryout in a small location where the seats would have to be turned 9 times a day to break even -and they were only open for 6 hours a day serving breakfast and lunch.

#18 spacefrog

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:15 PM

I am a tea drinker myself so you don't really need to convince me to drink tea. I think it's a culture thing why most people in north america prefer coffee than tea. There are a lot of different types of tea too. I personally like loose leave tea with no additional flavor. You can promote the health benefit of tea and different tea culture. In Canada there are a few tea places like David’s tea becoming more and more popular now. Good Luck!

 

 

Hi all,

I'm looking at starting a new coffee/tea bar and I could really do with your help! I want to focus on a large variety of high quality tea, instead of focussing on coffees, like most other places do. Having said that, I love coffee too and will also be serving the usual americano, cappuccino etc.

Tea is the second most popular drink (after water) in terms of amount consumed per day, yet costa and starbucks etc serve much more coffee than tea. What I would like to know is what would make you buy a tea (or derivative of tea) drink, or what's wrong with tea?

 

Thanks!



#19 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 11:28 PM

I don't drink coffee and only find myself in coffee shops when dragged there by a friend.  But I rarely order tea unless in an Asian restaurant, because most other places I've found serve either black teas that I don't enjoy or green teas rendered unpleasant by overbrewing in too-hot water. 

 

What would make me happy in a tea shop?

 

Good teas!  Not just Earl Grey and Darjeeling and English and Irish Breakfast and Chai and variously fruited or spiced blends.  Oolongs (many of which are very forgiving re:  brewing without turning bitter), puerhs, green teas including sencha would bring me in. 

 

And the ability to influence brewing parameters--if the staff is knowledgeable to take my request for relatively dilute/milder brew and give me what I want, then I don't have to control all the brewing parameters myself, but if not, letting me pour the tea myself will go a long way.



#20 John Delaney

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 07:45 PM

Hi all,

I'm looking at starting a new coffee/tea bar and I could really do with your help! I want to focus on a large variety of high quality tea, instead of focussing on coffees, like most other places do. Having said that, I love coffee too and will also be serving the usual americano, cappuccino etc.

Tea is the second most popular drink (after water) in terms of amount consumed per day, yet costa and starbucks etc serve much more coffee than tea. What I would like to know is what would make you buy a tea (or derivative of tea) drink, or what's wrong with tea?

 

Thanks!

Although tea is the second most popular drink worldwide, it is about the 6th most popular in the US whereas coffee is #2 in the US.  So that is why more coffee is being served than tea.  However, it is also true that coffee consumption is going down each year and tea consumption is going up in the US.  I can't remember the exact numbers but coffee is around 23% and dropping and tea is at 9% and climbing. 

 

Now, to your question,

1.  Selling coffee and tea at the same place is problematic because the smell of coffee negatively impacts tea.  The reason is that coffee has stronger smells and tea is delicate so selling the two in the same place creates a quality control issue.  This is why you should not store your tea near your coffee at home or near other strong odors like onions.  When I hear about a tea and coffee place, I have the belief that such a place will not serve good tea from the outset.   

2.  Don't reinvent the wheel.  See what tea shops are working and see if that same plan could work in your area.  For example, Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco seems to do well.  However, it also fits its environment.  You would need to see if something similar could work for you.  My guess is that tea shops would likely work best in areas where there are large immigrant bases that enjoy tea and that you could tap into at least a little.  I should also mention that at Samovar, they recommend Pu-er to customers who are looking for coffee.  They don't serve coffee.

3.  Consider bubble tea as an option.  Those type of tea stores and tea drinks are popping up everywhere and are very popular.  They don't require the same level of sophistication and education of a full blown tea shop and the American crowd loves them.

4.  If you still go with a full blown tea shop, expect to spend a lot of time on educating your audience.  A lot of people like the idea of drinking tea but don't know much about tea beyond iced tea from Lipton and Luzianne.  You will need to be their guide and show they way with a lot of hand holding.  This is a big departure from coffee shops where the battle was fought years ago by others.

 

As far as what would get people to buy tea, that is the million dollar question.  The current increase in tea consumption appears to be occuring because of perceived health benefits and I would expect that to continue to grow as more medical research is done.  The other part is like another poster mentioned is that interest in other cultures can play a big role as tea has the advantage of being the exotic drink compared to coffee here in the US.  People are always curious about the other thing and the history of tea is appealing to some people who like history and a good story.  I think tea does well with the tech crowd for this reason.

 

Finally, nothing is wrong with tea.  It is great stuff and people should drink more of it, especially good quality loose leaf tea. 



#21 John Delaney

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 07:55 PM

I am a tea drinker myself so you don't really need to convince me to drink tea. I think it's a culture thing why most people in north america prefer coffee than tea. There are a lot of different types of tea too. I personally like loose leave tea with no additional flavor. You can promote the health benefit of tea and different tea culture. In Canada there are a few tea places like David’s tea becoming more and more popular now. Good Luck!

I think what you said here is very accurate.  However, I will say that we do drink a lot of iced tea in the US especially in the South.  However, it is like 5 times the amount of loose leaf tea that is drunk which is the problem.  People in the US don't really know about loose leaf tea like they do coffee.  But I think this trend can and will change over time.  For the longest time, coffee only meant Sanka and Folgers to the people in the US until around the 80s or 90s and then things changed in a hurry.  I think the tea industry can grow in the US for the reasons you mentioned.  I believe the baby boomers will love to hear about the health benefits and segments of the millenials will like the idea of learning about different tea cultures and the exotic qualities of tea.  Everything rises and falls over time and I believe tea is due for a comeback.  Tea was actually more popular than coffee in the US prior to the Revolutionary War and even Starbucks has bought 2 tea companies now.



#22 egalicontrarian

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 06:50 AM

I also don't love the "French press for tea brewing" thing, but one suggestion I saw recently that was really good is to put the leaf on *top* of the press portion. That serves two functions -- 1, makes it easier to take the leaf out of contact with the water, and 2, prevents the user from actually pressing on the tea leaves.

 

That's a great suggestion. Obvious when you think of it, but I never would have!



#23 Hassouni

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 08:19 AM

Then what's the point of using a French press....



#24 Will

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 01:28 PM

Then what's the point of using a French press....

Well, for one, they're widely available, not too fussy, and allow viewing of the leaves. But secondly, even with the leaves on top, the device still allows you to separate the leaves and the water (once some water has been poured out). I'm not suggesting it's unique (obviously, other brewing devices can also allow this). I mentioned before that this is not really a preferred method of tea brewing for me, but I think if you're going to use a French press to brew tea (as many shops seem to do, whether because they already have one or because they think it's stylish), this would be the way to do it.



#25 Naftal

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 01:50 PM


Another secret is to develop speedy service, especially for carryout. Most places have policies whereby a customer should be able to place their order within a minute or two and get their food/drink in another minute or two.

 

I think that is the opposite of what should be done. It isn't McDonalds. Would you go to a fine wine tasting and belt back as many bottles as you could in record time?
 
I live in China and on the street where I live there has to be at least 20 tea shops. There are literally thousands in the city. Drinking tea there is a slow, relaxed sedate process.


Hello- I agree with liuzhou. Also, you should have good original art on the walls.

Edited by heidih, 12 May 2013 - 08:32 AM.
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#26 egalicontrarian

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 08:08 PM

Then what's the point of using a French press....

 

I was just thinking that this is something you could request at places that simply don't have actual tea pots, infusers, etc. available and foolishly use French Press pots. I would never voluntarily use a French Press.



#27 ericparkr

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 11:45 PM

I prefer coffee instead of tea. Cappuccino is my favorite coffee. I prefer ginger tea if i have no option other than coffee.



#28 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 03:59 AM

A possible irrelevancy but a sign, maybe, that at least down here, this sort of thing might just have legs. Vue de Monde, one of the best (and more expensive) restaurants in Melbourne (and perhaps Australia as a whole--I'd rate it up there with the best Sydney has to offer) employs a 'tea sommelier'. During our visit he appeared towards the end of the meal to match a chocolate dessert (perhaps the most pedestrian course of the menu) with a tea. He presented me with a tea menu when I expressed interest in the notion of a tea sommelier. The selection was broad. But also expensive. I mean, yeah, I get that good quality tea isn't cheap and this was a different context--a high end restaurant as opposed to a specialist bar/cafe--but still, the price they were charging per ~150mL cup was undeniably steep. I'd be nervous about severely limiting my market by having a menu that was prohibitively expensive, particularly given you're presumably aiming to bring novice or casual tea appreciators into the fold. A newcomer isn't going to pay $15 for a cup of tea.


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#29 henry.hernandez45

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Posted 04 July 2013 - 06:03 AM

I think tea is considered more of a "health" drink so if you're really interested in making "tea" a success in your "coffee" shop then try different "health" teas in a variety of fruit flavors. Chamomile, lavender, jasmine, green tea … you might want to experiment with the Asian variety of tea (called "chai") that includes milk and sugar and a few spices like ginger and cardamom. Like Happy Hour, you can have a High Tea Hour - serve some tea on the house! 
 
And if you’re looking for commercial tea/coffee brewers I know just the place. I have a big family and we’ve just bought a commercial coffee machine that we all love!  We usually get together on weekends to enjoy a meal and a good cup of coffee is the highlight. We've found some good coffee shop supplies on DailyCuppaCoffee. Check it out http://www.dailycuppacoffee.com/.  All the best!


#30 AAQuesada

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Posted 04 July 2013 - 08:31 PM

Don't ignore iced tea preparations as well and even work with a bartender/consultant to develop some creative mixed drinks (no alcohol) featuring your teas. Cold tea prep and even tea cocktails give you something that you can serve quickly and batch in advance; in addition to being a 'signature' of your shop