The World Tea Expo’s Hospitality, Culinary and Food Service Committee aims to bring professionals from these sectors together with specialty tea purveyors at World Tea Expo 2019 so all can benefit. The committee’s ultimate objective is to increase tea’s involvement in these areas.
World Tea Expo Community and Conference Content Manager Faith Bailes said, “We’re trying to increase people’s awareness about specialty tea. There are so many excellent teas.”
Jhanne Jasmine, committee member and Research and Development Specialist at Stash Tea Company, said, “I think the committee is very timely and taking a purposeful approach to tackling a daunting mission of advancing the tea culture within the hospitality sector.”
A.J. Singh, committee member and Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, believes tea companies would also benefit by having a deeper understanding of the hospitality industry and marketing. “The hospitality industry needs to learn more about specialty tea as they are not at the stage of learning sophistication as in wine, spirits, coffee and now craft beer,” said Singh. He added, there is a lack of communication between the tea and hospitality industries—tea companies need to know more about how hospitality operates and hospitality companies need a deeper understanding of the myriad tea product offerings and embrace the opportunity to include tea as a bigger part of their overall beverage programs.
Committee member Kyle Stewart, who co-owns The Cultured Cup tea shop in Texas, also spoke of the importance of restaurants incorporating tea into their menus and sommelier programs, “Quality tea education needs to be a part of culinary and sommelier programs as these professionals are the gatekeepers of beverages within restaurants. It’s no longer OK for restaurants with 5-star food and wine programs to serve 1-star tea.”
Additionally, the growth in popularity of tea among millennials supports the need for more of a tea presence in the hospitality and food service sectors.
The committee feels the key to introducing people to tea is by giving them the opportunity to taste high end specialty tea. “We need to follow in the footsteps of the wine industry,” said Bailes. “We need to engage people’s senses.” Seeing, smelling and tasting quality teas will be the impetus for those in hospitality and culinary industries to want to learn more. “The first time tasting an incredible tea was a turning point for many of us who were deeply inspired by its layered complexity, sheer magnitude of variety and depth of ever evolving flavors,” said Jasmine, who recommends inviting culinary industry professionals to free educational tastings with discounted incentives to explore the World Tea Expo further. As more hospitality and culinary professionals develop an appreciation for fine teas, there will be more opportunities for specialty tea companies to reach a broader clientele.
Singh suggests reaching out to faculty at hospitality schools that have food and beverage programs and offering hospitality students a special partnership (and possibly a rate) at the expo as part of an academic program. These partnerships could also include tea industry professionals doing sessions at the schools and serving in an advisory capacity, said Singh.
Committee member Mary Greengo, who owns of Queen Mary Tea Room in Seattle, Washington agrees that tea programs should be incorporated into educational institutions. “Get into the ground level at cooking schools and show them how tea is brewed and can be incorporated into recipes in the establishments,” Greengo said.
“It really boils down to requiring an industry cultural change, and that takes time and education,” said Jasmine. “I’m confident that it can be achieved though, and if/when it is accomplished it will be a game changer for the specialty tea industry.”
As cross pollination between those in the hospitality, culinary and food service industries and those in the specialty tea industry continues to be cultivated in years to come, the goal for all is an increase in revenue. “It will be a real boost to any tea company because we will finally be able to start providing teas to the restaurant industry,” said Greengo. “I think it will bolster all of us.”