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Hot Tea

by Kari Guddeck @ Barista Pro Shop

"The U.S. market for tea is expected to double in the next five years," states Fresh Cup magazine in their December 2007 issue. The tea trend is on the rise due in part to its profitability, health benefits, and diversity. Establishing a premium tea program now can put you on the cutting edge of this segment of the specialty beverage industry.

Tea has a high potential for profit because of its low cost per serving, almost zero waste, and long shelf life. Typically, a single tea bag will cost less than fifty cents, with the remaining expense being the cup it is served in and any condiments the customer may add (such as honey or milk). This equates to a fairly large mark up and a finished drink that generally costs less than two dollars. Adding to the profitability of tea is its lack of waste in preparation. There is no milk to steam or shots to pull, so there is no risk of over use of milk or poor quality shots that need to be redone. Hot water is the main component and it is readily available and easily measured into the cup. This ease of preparation requires little work by the barista, thus reducing labor costs. Tea also has a generous shelf life when stored correctly. This allows for the purchase of higher quantities at lower prices without the worry of losing sales to expired product. In the end, both merchant and consumer benefit from the cost of tea.

Health Benefits:
The growing popularity of tea in the U.S. can be attributed to the health benefits associated with its consumption. As more Americans lean towards healthier lifestyles, tea is becoming the beverage they reach for. It has long been the drink of choice for individuals trying to limit or avoid caffeine. Tea naturally contains less of the stimulant, and tisanes (brewed herbal beverages which are not derived from the tea plant, but are commonly referred to as "tea" as well) usually contain none. One of the more widely known properties of tea is its high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals in the body, which may help prevent cell damage and even cancer. More recent studies have linked tea consumption to lower levels of bad cholesterol, promoting a healthy circulatory system, weight loss, and a decreased risk of acquiring Alzheimer's disease. Offering tea to customers shows that you are aware of and making an effort to serve the health conscious.

The diversity of coffee is evident by the vast array of specialty beverages available with coffee as a base. Tea, on the other hand, may seem pretty one dimensional at first glance. It's just hot water with a few dried leaves thrown in, right? Not anymore. Tea has developed into an art form all its own. Tea "artisans" seek to blend the highest quality tea leaves, herbs, flowers, etc. into unique and intriguing flavors. Mighty Leaf's chocolate truffle teas are a testament to the creativity and diversity of tea. Another exciting offering is flowering or blooming teas (see Numi's line of flowering teas). These teas are usually hand sewn into compact balls or cones that slowly open, or "bloom", when steeped. Most often served in a clear glass tea pot, the finished product can look like anything from a sea anemone to a multicolored flower. Choice even exists in a simple cup of green or black tea as region specific and quality level leaves emerge. Many teas are now certified organic and fair trade. This is but a brief overview of the myriad of tea options available, proving that tea can serve as an exciting addition to your menu.

Brand and Product Comparison

Barista Pro Shop currently offers three lines of tea. Each has unique packaging and several flavor options. Choosing a line may depend on whether or not you want to carry loose leaf tea or tea bags, the number of varieties you wish to have, cost, and personal style.

Mighty Leaf:
Mighty Leaf is proud to offer their bagged teas in the trademarked "silken tea bag" with "pre portioned loose tea". This design attempts to mimic the steeped flavor and intensity of loose leaf tea. The bag also makes for nice presentation as the colorful leaves, herbs, and flowers are visible through the bag. Mighty Leaf's teas are available in retail size boxes, foodservice size boxes, and one pound loose leaf bags. A few varieties are certified organic. Also available are abaca gift boxes, chocolate truffle teas, loose leaf tea sets, and Oasis spa pouches for the bath.

Numi is the most economical line of tea that Barista Pro Shop carries. The company offers only certified organic, fair trade teas and is dedicated to sustainable production practices. Numi is available in retail and foodservice size boxes. Tea pots, bamboo gift boxes, and flowering teas are also available.

Novus tea is packaged in a pyramid shaped nylon bag that allows more space for the expansion of its full leaf tea. Again, presentation of tea is nice due to the see through nylon bag. Novus is available in retail and foodservice sizes.

The story of Paisley Tea Co. British by way of India, the paisley pattern, like tea, becaome popular in the 17th centurey. Our Paisley blends are inspired by great English tea - rich, robust, dark in the cup and delicious with or without milk.

Two Leaves and A Bud:
At Two Leaves Tea Company, they go to the tea gardens. Visit the rolling hills of Darjeeling, the tropical climate of Assam, and other gardens around the world and you'll find them tasting tea, interacting with farmers and experiencing whole leaf organic tea in its purest, native form. They feel it's their mission to bring the experience of the gardens back to you as customers. 


A word on the tools you'll need

The tools you'll need to compliment your tea depend on whether you choose to carry tea bags or loose leaf tea. Retail boxes of tea can act as their own display; however, they can be difficult to keep organized and can take up valuable counter space. Mighty Leaf, Numi, and Novus all offer a rack that displays their retail boxes, leaving your counter uncluttered. The racks also make retrieval of the tea bags easier. Mighty Leaf also carries storage tins and a matching rack which can be used with their loose leaf teas or as container for tea bags. Mighty Leaf's tea pouches can be steeped to the customer's preference when using their innovative tea lid. This lid is specially designed to fit 95% of to go cups on the market. When brewing is complete, the tea pouch is pulled into the secure lofted area and the oils are then squeezed back into the beverage.

If you choose to carry loose leaf teas, you will need a few more items for tea display and preparation. An airtight container is a must for storing loose leaf tea. As mentioned above, Mighty Leaf offers metal tins for this purpose. Air tight glass containers work well to show off your colorful variety of teas.

Loose leaf tea can be steeped in a tea pot, in a paper filter bag, a tea ball, a steeping basket, etc. Some tea pots have built in strainers, if not, you will need to offer a separate strainer. Paper filter bags work well for tea drinkers on the go. Tea balls and steeping baskets are nice options for customers who want a single cup of tea or who would rather come back for more hot water. Clear glass tea pots are necessary if you plan on adding flowering teas to your menu.

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