Bringing Tea into The Pub

Tea and pubs offer a natural fusion of opportunities.

For pubs and bars, 4 p.m. brings a lull in customer traffic, with empty chairs and silent cash registers. For tea lovers, it’s when their taste buds and internal clocks signal “It’s time for tea.”

For small groups the tea-pub combination offers a relaxed ambiance, a cocktail or oolong choice, and a chance to try something new or repeat the ritual of their favorite beverage.

For anyone who says, “I’d love a really good cup of tea. Where can we go?” The usual answer is silence. There are only a few tearooms in most locales, often excellent but more for special occasions than everyday drop ins. There are coffee shops with generally limited choices of tea, and cafes that in general are notorious for inattention to brewing temperature and offer only basic commodity tea bags.

Tea Pubs

These retailers demonstrate the fast-growing wave of innovation in the tea experience, rather than the tea product.

  • Pub grub, craft beers, Afternoon Tea (Celtic Knot Public House, Evanston, Ill.)
  • Tiki bar, “tea-themed happy hour” (Navy Strength, Seattle, Wash.)
  • Garfunkel’s cocktail lounge by night and Janam Tea in the afternoon
    (Clinton St., Lower East Side, New York, N.Y.)
  • “A place that serves exceptional tea, but instead of a starkly-lit café, it’s got the rich atmosphere of a pub. “Britain’s first tea pub.” (Brew Tea Pub, London, U.K.)
  • Authentic Irish tavern, full Afternoon Tea daily (Rí Rá Irish Pub Las Vegas, Nev.)
  • Menu: Food, Draught Beer, Whisky, Afternoon Tea (Brit’s Pub, Minneapolis, Minn.)
  • Fusion food with craft beers and specialty teas (Modern Pantry, London, U.K.)

The tea experience has historically largely been built on the product. For casual drinkers it is the teabag and its convenience. To fine tea lovers, the measure of pleasure is tea’s pedigree and specialty, brewing and teaware. Heaven is a Da Hong Pao oolong served gong fu.

There’s also a large group of millennials, coffee lovers, foodies, wine drinkers, vegetarians and burger lovers who don’t find their favorite tea product in their favorite haunts. But they are increasingly marked by interest in variety, new tastes, and creative combinations of food and drink. They are unlikely to set foot in a traditional tearoom—if they can even find one—or in a palatial hotel serving high tea fit for royalty (and priced accordingly). In the pub, they are strong candidates for “That sounds interesting… I’ll try it.”

For all these groups, the new styles of “pub” offer plenty of appeal. For the pub owner, they provide plenty of profit potential. They typically make $25 per order of tea and nibbles. They don’t have extra heavy costs; tea’s an add on that doesn’t involve extra fixed costs. In many instances it fills unused space and time. The leaf ingredient is inexpensive—even the very best costs less than a $1 per cup.

A report on a research study by the market research firm Mintel International captures the opportunity and challenge: “In the end, afternoon tea innovation will be driven by the hospitality operators who are able to transform and improve the consumer’s out-of-home tea experience. Will your product, coupled with great guest experience, sway your guests?”

Source: Mintel International, The Daily Mail