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tea discrimination


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#1 Kim WB

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 08:36 AM

Welcome to the new forum and new moderator.

I've had a long standing compaint. When dining in many restaurants, even those considered high end, there is a distinct difference between the coffee and tea service. The coffee drinker might get a caraffe( at brunch, for example) or at a minimum, a refill. There is usually a selection of types of coffee as well. A tea drinker gets a cup of hot water, and a tea bag in it. A higher end place might have a selection of tea bags in a pretentious wooden box, and will serve tea in a glorified creamer with a lid. Oh, there are a hanful of places that do it right, and I've been to them: a small china or ceramic pot that has enough for two or three cups, perhaps an infulse or strainer with loose tea, or at a minimum tea bags that are FRESH, and actually begin to infuse the water when it makes contact!

I drink coffee,a nd when I'm skipping dessert I'll order a coffee instead, sweet and light. But when I have dessert, or during breakfast or lunch, I prefer black teas.

Any tea drinkers feel similiarly discriminated against?

#2 beans

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 09:43 AM

You mean the volume of beverage in services -- coffee versus tea?

In informal service, yes thermal carafes for coffee are a given.

However in fine dining, we did have the pretentious wooden box of various teas and glorified creamer pot of hot water for tea service. But, coffee service never included a clucky thermal carafe pot of coffee left at the guests' table. That would be most unacceptable as the guest could be "ignored" and serve themselves when in fact the attentive and profressional server was to spring to offering a refill when that magic line of empitness was anticipated/perceived. Tea too -- with a replacement glorified creamer pot of hot water and additional tea selections. :smile:

Even in informal coffee/tea service a variety of teas may be stuffed into some lovely presentation of some sort of caddy, but that too required the server to be attentive to hot water replacement in anticipation of the guests' needs. :cool:

Was that what you were alluding to?

#3 Katherine

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 02:36 PM

I've had a long standing compaint. When dining in many restaurants, even those considered high end, there is a distinct difference between the coffee and tea service. The coffee drinker might get a caraffe( at brunch, for example) or at a minimum, a refill. There is usually a selection of types of coffee as well. A tea drinker gets a cup of hot water, and a tea bag in it. A higher end place might have a selection of tea bags in a pretentious wooden box, and will serve tea in a glorified creamer with a lid. Oh, there are a hanful of places that do it right, and I've been to them: a small china or ceramic pot that has enough for two or three cups, perhaps an infulse or strainer with loose tea, or at a minimum tea bags that are FRESH, and actually begin to infuse the water when it makes contact!

The way I see it, the real problem with tea in restaurants is that they always bring you a cup of water that came out of the coffeemaker, which wasn't hot enough to make tea when they put it in the cup. They bring it to the table, then go to get the pretentious box for you to select a teabag to rip open and put into your now lukewarm water.

It bugs me not being able to get a decent cup of tea, because I can't drink coffee.

If we can get them over this, maybe we can get them to work on your problem, too.

#4 OPJK

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 04:24 PM

The consistent inability to get freshly boiled water caused me to stop ordering tea at the overwhelming majority of restaurants in the States. Years ago I would ask if the the restaurant had "real" boiling water, but it was often both futile and just a little condescending feeling.

Fortunately, I like coffee. Unfortunately, tea would be a nice option in many circumstances. Having worked in restaurants that had no problem with providing proper tea service, it seems silly that this is such a common situation.

Double espresso, please!
Knowledge is good.

#5 Kim WB

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 06:55 PM

I meant to say that weatherone is fine dining or diner dining, the tea service is always sub par compared to the coffee service. I was at breakfast at Blue Fin over the weekend, in the W hotel in NYC. The diners who ordered coffee got a carafe of brew, to keep warm and refill as needed. I got a cup with a tea bag next to it, and never an offer for more hot water, let alone another bag. I was at a lovely lunch spot in prestigious Bay Head, the coffee was elegantly served, in small private pots. I got...a cup of hot water. With a teabag...albiet a Harney and Sons Earl grey, but still the same relative second class status.

#6 beans

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 07:19 PM

I meant to say that weatherone is fine dining or diner dining, the tea service is always sub par compared to the coffee service. I was at breakfast at Blue Fin over the weekend, in the W hotel in NYC. The diners who ordered coffee got a carafe of brew, to keep warm and refill as needed. I got a cup with a tea bag next to it, and never an offer for more hot water, let alone another bag. I was at a lovely lunch spot in prestigious Bay Head, the coffee was elegantly served, in small private pots. I got...a cup of hot water. With a teabag...albiet a Harney and Sons Earl grey, but still the same relative second class status.

I guess that I'm still not understanding what you are getting at. At first you talk about the "pretentious wooden box" presentation. Now you mention "I got a cup with a tea bag next to it" in a fine dining situation. Which one is the one you don't like? Both? (I ask because if I label something as pretentious, then there is something about it I don't particularly care for).

Also, I don't understand how to assign the perception of second class status to ordering a cup of tea. :wacko: If the tea water is cooling down fast, why not ask your server to microwave the water to the point of boiling water? (I don't care for boiling hot tea, so the hot water that is usually dispensed from the coffee machine or a special plumbed-in faucet is fine). Or if there are other choices? Or if you'd like another cup, in anticipation of enjoying the last bit of your current cup? :smile:

Eating out, fine dining or not, the only time I've had a lovely tea service was from a tea room -- or when I travelled through the United Kingdom. (Then I had a hard time finding a good cup of coffee! I really had to look and seek one out! However, I am sure that has changed. :biggrin: ) Oh, and I forgot about the Russian tea service I've enjoyed in Alaska. Yum! Current jelly.

#7 browniebaker

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 07:56 AM

I meant to say that weatherone is fine dining or diner dining, the tea service is always sub par compared to the coffee service.  I was at breakfast at Blue Fin over the weekend, in the W hotel in NYC.  The diners who ordered coffee got a carafe of brew, to keep warm and refill as needed. I got a cup with a tea bag next to it, and never an offer for more hot water, let alone another bag.  I was at a lovely lunch spot in prestigious Bay Head, the coffee was elegantly served, in small private pots.  I got...a cup of hot water. With a teabag...albiet a Harney and Sons Earl grey, but still the same relative second class status.

I guess that I'm still not understanding what you are getting at. At first you talk about the "pretentious wooden box" presentation. Now you mention "I got a cup with a tea bag next to it" in a fine dining situation. Which one is the one you don't like? Both? (I ask because if I label something as pretentious, then there is something about it I don't particularly care for).

Also, I don't understand how to assign the perception of second class status to ordering a cup of tea. :wacko: If the tea water is cooling down fast, why not ask your server to microwave the water to the point of boiling water? (I don't care for boiling hot tea, so the hot water that is usually dispensed from the coffee machine or a special plumbed-in faucet is fine). Or if there are other choices? Or if you'd like another cup, in anticipation of enjoying the last bit of your current cup? :smile:

No, no, no. As any lover of tea will maintain:

Tea leaves (or, faute de mieux, tea bags) must be infused in water at a rolling boil. The boiling-water requirement holds, no matter at what temperature one prefers to drink one's tea. Tea must be hot, so that the addition of milk will not make the tea too tepid. Those who do not add milk but prefer tea at lower temperatures simply wait a bit.

What will not do is microwaved water, in a pot of which some areas may not be at boiling temperature.

What also will not do is hot water in an open cup; even if the water is poured boiling into the cup, it cools off too quickly during the three to five minutes required to infuse tea.

At restaurants what I want is tea leaves (or, if I must, a tea bag) infused in boiling water poured into a preheated teapot with a lid. No more, no less.

I'm an easy diner to take care of, except when it comes to tea, for then I am exacting. And I am always amazed at the quizzical looks I get from servers at my request for boiling water. So many are the instances when I have been brought a tepid cup or pot of water with a tea bag on the side, that I preemptively spell out the requirements at the time of my order for tea.

As a non-coffee-drinker living in the U.S., which is really a coffee-culture, I do feel second-class when I order tea after dinner. The request for tea is unexpected, extraordinary, usually obviously a bother to the server. The method of preparation is rarely up to minimum standards. I always feel a bit stressed out, wondering whether the server will get it right. Add to all this the fact that in many circles drinking tea after dinner is considered low-class, and you have why tea-drinkers have reason to feel second-class.

#8 beans

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 09:12 AM

No, no, no. As any lover of tea will maintain:


Careful! I love my tea too!


What will not do is microwaved water, in a pot of which some areas may not be at boiling temperature.


Usually the water is not microwaved in a pot because those pots are most often stainless steel.


What also will not do is hot water in an open cup; even if the water is poured boiling into the cup, it cools off too quickly during the three to five minutes required to infuse tea.


Most well trained service staff are aware of preheating a hot beverage cup. If they don't, well that is just laziness.


At restaurants what I want is tea leaves (or, if I must, a tea bag) infused in boiling water poured into a preheated teapot with a lid. No more, no less.

I'm an easy diner to take care of, except when it comes to tea, for then I am exacting. And I am always amazed at the quizzical looks I get from servers at my request for boiling water. So many are the instances when I have been brought a tepid cup or pot of water with a tea bag on the side, that I preemptively spell out the requirements at the time of my order for tea.


See, that is perfect! Specify!!! Just as I encourage others when ordering their cocktail of choice to advise the person creating your drink to your precise preference. Tell them what you want in those terms, you will get what you want to drink! :smile:

Who cares about the quizzical looks -- but be sure to smile and charmingly express a verbal thank you indicating your appreciation for that server following your careful instructions.


As a non-coffee-drinker living in the U.S., which is really a coffee-culture, I do feel second-class when I order tea after dinner. The request for tea is unexpected, extraordinary, usually obviously a bother to the server. The method of preparation is rarely up to minimum standards. I always feel a bit stressed out, wondering whether the server will get it right. Add to all this the fact that in many circles drinking tea after dinner is considered low-class, and you have why tea-drinkers have reason to feel second-class.


I don't and probably never will understand attributing a class consciousness evaluative concepts to drinking tea, coffee or tea vs. coffee service. When I travelled around the UK I didn't feel "second class" nor "discrimination" because I found excellent tea or tea service and mediocre coffee. I just figured it wasn't being served the way I liked it (preparation or quality -- mainly) In the States, drinking tea and having an excellent, well-trained staff, a well-appointed stock of wares for tea service and a fair quantity and quality selection of teas to suit one's preference seems to be entirely upon the owner or management's philosophy of to do it or not.

Hmm, this lead me another thought, with the sheer multitude of highly individualised preferences for drinking coffee and tea, in all of its many shapes, forms and styles, how is a server to understand, or already know, the meticulous particulars as to how I enjoy my hot and soul satisfying beverage? Perhaps why there are so many instructions and sometimes intimidating "shorthand" specialised "jargon," for some, when picking up that morning cup with a long line of others impatiently and anxiously awaiting their turn?

Meh, now I'm rambling.... :rolleyes:

#9 phaelon56

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 04:10 PM

Add to all this the fact that in many circles drinking tea after dinner is considered low-class, and you have why tea-drinkers have reason to feel second-class.


I certainly haven't been aware of this as an issue - at least not in any of the circles I travel in (which are admittedly humble).

Unfortunately, apart from the practice of prividing carafes and hot refills for coffee (in some places), coffee also gets short shrift (in terms of proper preparation).

#10 fredbram

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 04:17 PM

As both a tea drinker and an espresso drinker I have to concur that it is just too much trouble at 99% of restaurants in the US to get a decent cup of tea. The water isn't hot enough, there isn't enough of it, it isn't in a closed container and, to be honest, the milk should be hot also.
And yes, sometimes it is possible to special order all of this, but, it just is not enough return for the hassle. I end up in a bad mood and/or feeling like they think I'm some kind of freak, and, half the time, don't end up getting a good enough cup of tea to make it worth the trouble anyway.
In many ways the same is true of getting a good espresso, but that is another story.
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#11 cdh

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 07:06 PM

No, no, no. As any lover of tea will maintain:

Tea leaves (or, faute de mieux, tea bags) must be infused in water at a rolling boil. The boiling-water requirement holds, no matter at what temperature one prefers to drink one's tea. Tea must be hot, so that the addition of milk will not make the tea too tepid. Those who do not add milk but prefer tea at lower temperatures simply wait a bit.

What will not do is microwaved water, in a pot of which some areas may not be at boiling temperature.

What also will not do is hot water in an open cup; even if the water is poured boiling into the cup, it cools off too quickly during the three to five minutes required to infuse tea.

At restaurants what I want is tea leaves (or, if I must, a tea bag) infused in boiling water poured into a preheated teapot with a lid. No more, no less.

As another tea lover, I'd suggest your list of requirements only pertains to certain types of black teas. Assams and Ceylons really do require really hot water, and don't suffer from its effects.

However... At least according to my palate, a lot of teas suffer from brewing in too-hot water. Darjeelings get horribly bitter and astringent if the water is above about 190F... and even at that temperature, DJs can only handle about 2 minutes of infusion before getting unpleasant.

Dark oolongs can't handle much above 185, or the floral foresty notes get drowned in the astringent tanins.

Light oolongs get bitter if the water is above 180...

Greens and whites actually show their best flavor characteristics if brewed overnight in room temperature water (provided they're kept in an airtight environment to prevent oxidation) and then warmed to serving temp once the leaves have been strained out.

So... demanding boiling water is a totally reasonable response to the variable requirements of your leaves... provided you've got a good feel for how long it takes for it to cool off to the temperature you need it to be.
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#12 fifi

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 08:16 PM

I really think that us "Yanks" don't know how to deal with tea. Maybe it goes back to the Boston Tea Party.

Anyway, I never knew what a really good "tea" was until I took my kids (college age at the time) to England a few years ago. They made a reservation at Brown's in London for High Tea as a Mother's Day present. (Great kids, huh?) That was a revelation. You had a choice of teas, presented on the menu. The waiters circulated with pots of perfectly brewed tea. The sandwiches and sweet treats were sublime. I didn't have to fiddle with tea bags or any such nonsense. The brewing was left to the experts and the difference showed. And I didn't know that cucumber sandwiches could be so good.

I don't know if we will ever see such service in our coffee-centric culture. But I did learn that I have great kids. :wub:
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#13 mongo_jones

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Posted 03 December 2003 - 11:14 AM

it is difficult to get good tea in a country that has a largely non-tea drinking culture. in india or australia or england you can order tea and not worry about getting a teabag or any of the other things people have raised in this thread. if i order tea in a restaurant here and it arrives with a bag already in the cup i send it back and ask for a cup of freshly boiling water and a tea-bag--so i can put it in myself and take it out at the 3 minute mark that i like my tea (depending on type).

what really gets my goat as a tea-drinker is when you order tea and the precious wooden box shows up and there isn't a single bag in there that contains actual tea; just a bunch of herbal concoctions.

i think it is largely a matter of education. the u.s being a coffee-centric culture everyone knows how to brew coffee but most people also assume that tea can just be made by dunking a tea-bag in water that's hot.

but all of this is applicable only to brewed tea. in india you get tea made a whole bunch of other ways (what they call chai in the u.s, though chai just means tea, and if you're visiting a north indian family and they offer you chai you shouldn't expect some exotically spiced drink) to which these questions of service don't apply.