Inspired by the variety and popularity of tea selections at neighborhood cafes, Nation’s Restaurant News reports that “restaurant operators are cherry-picking single-origin coffee, matcha, cold brew and nitro coffee from hip café menus to enhance their coffee and tea selections.”
Andrew Freeman, president of Andrew Freeman & Co., a hospitality consulting firm based in San Francisco told the magazine the notoriety of plant-based diets is driving consumer interest, “Anything you do with tea is a double whammy,” Freeman says. “It has great flavor and health perception.”
While tea retailers should retain their signature blends and drink recipes, ventures like Mad Monk Tea in San Diego have developed a profitable business supplying nearby restaurants and coffee shops with a limited selection of fine teas.
“Coffee houses are the perfect venue for our product. Shop owners and managers subject their own coffees to the same scrutiny that we do with our teas, every day,” said Mad Monk founder Taylor Drye, adding “The essence of my game is quality over quantity.”
In January market research publisher Packaged Facts estimated the US foodservice tea market at $20 billion.
“Tea likely will have the edge [over coffee] in future growth momentum as sales are expected to increase through 2018 and beyond,” according to Foodservice Tea Market Trends in the U.S.
Technomic reports that restaurant sales have revived after a long slump with the 500 largest chains recording a cumulative 4.9% increase to gross $288 billion in 2015.
“The fast casual segment continues to lead the pack with 11.4% sales growth, almost double the growth rate of any other dining segment,” reports Technomic.
Katrina Herold, associate professor in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. advises offering a choice of origins within categories including green teas from China and Japan. Rounding out the selection are rooibos, or red tea, from South Africa, caffeine-free herbal teas and matcha, a Japanese powdered green tea. A tea that is unusual, such as China’s smoky-flavored lapsang souchong, can be a conversation piece, she told Nation’s Restaurant News.
Herold emphasizes that it is essential to communicate sources, sustainability practices and available brewing options on both coffee and tea menus. Those are matters that the aspiring culinarians at Johnson & Wales, and their many peers in the marketplace, care very deeply about.
“This generation really wants to know the story about coffee and tea,” says Herold. “Where did it come from? Is the farmer making a living? It is as important to them to know that about coffee and tea as it is about food.”