Tea

Developing a Retail Tea Program

When deciding on a menu for a café, tea is often an after thought. This can be a costly mistake in terms of missed opportunity, over expenditure, or shrink. Offering tea properly can increase customer satisfaction and drive sales.

Why Tea?

Serving tea to your consumer base can increase draw to your café. Teas can be served later in the day than most people are willing to buy coffee. When people come into the café as a group, not every individual will purchase coffee. It is important to have a range of products that can appeal to a broad audience. Different types of tea can satisfy different customers and require little storage space. Tea requires considerably less input material for each cup at only 2.5g compared to 21g for coffee as in the comparison below.

Tea represents a higher margin product for your café, even considering this comparison does not take into consideration the costs that factor into roasting. Each cup of tea can be sold for close to if not the same price as a cup of coffee. The cost of tea is less than half the price of coffee per cup.

What Tea?

The same care and attention that you put into your coffee program should be paid attention to your tea. It is important to give your consumers options, but not so many that would be overwhelming. By starting with one tea of each type – green, black and herbal – you can test your market without large expenditure. If this is successful, decide how much variety you think will be important to your consumers and your brand.

To have a successful tea program with a less adventurous customer base, stick to classic, approachable flavors. Teas like English Breakfast or Earl Grey stand up well to milk and sugar, and most people are already familiar with how they taste. Jasmine Green and Dragonwell are classic green teas that would be recognizable to most consumers. These teas are delicate with nuanced flavors and would not stand up well to milk, but are popular with people accustomed to drinking green tea. Rooibos offers flavors and body desirable for black tea drinkers without the caffeine. The flavors are malty and sweet and would stand up well to milk. Chamomile is another approachable and well known herbal tea that many consumers would purchase later in the day or evening.

Beyond the classics are varieties of quality and experimentation that may be exciting for a higher end consumer. Pu’er teas are fermented and aged and can offer unique and intense flavors that may not appeal to an average black tea consumer. Da Hong Pao, or Big Red Robe, is a very high quality and expensive yancha (rock tea) oolong. Marketing this tea as a basic menu staple would be a mistake. The same can be said for a single-estate second-flush Darjeeling. Both will cost more, but your clientele may be willing to pay a premium for quality if advertised correctly. Conversely, Genmaicha is affordable but may be confusing to consumers who are not expecting toasted rice in their tea.

Tea lattes using Matcha or powdered Hojicha have become increasingly popular in recent years as an alternative to coffee. These milled teas have rich flavors that can stand up to steamed milk very well. They offer earthy and sweet flavors, similar to a latte, but without coffee. The ingredients have similar prices, but these lattes can fetch prices higher than their coffee based counter parts in certain markets.

Teas, in general, represent a wider array of flavors than coffee. Seasonal tea offerings like Pumpkin Spice Pu’erh or Gingerbread black tea can keep your menu dynamic and clientele engaged with your offerings. Seasonal teas will also require less training and less additional ingredients than other types of seasonal signature beverages. This decreases the additional training required for preparation and simplifies workflow. Signature teas or custom blends can give customers a unique experience they cannot find anywhere else.

Tea can offer a simple way to differentiate yourself from the competition, and increase the customer base you will be able to reach. If you have more questions about what teas would be right for you or creating custom blends, contact a trader at Royal Tea.

Patrick McKeown

Patrick began his coffee journey on Long Island at a low volume coffee bar, and roasting at home. Since then he has been a barista, manager, and craft roaster in NYC.