Café Quackery: The Great Tea Bag Rip-Off

Do you own a cafe/snack bar/restaurant  or the like? And do you have an espresso machine?

If so, here’s a question to which there are only only two ways of answering:

When it comes to tea in your establishment, which one of these is true?

(a) I provide loose leaf tea for my customers.

(b) I use tea bags because I am lazy, uncaring and have no interest in quality. Oh, and stupid as well.

If you answered (a) , then great. But if you answered (b), then I’m talking to you.

There is, never has been, and never will be, any excuse for using tea bags. It’s like stealing from your customers.

How dare you charge more or less the same price for the products of the barista’s art and energy versus water slopped on a tea bag?

Let’s look at the usual excuses:

  • EXCUSE 1: Real tea is expensive!

Really? What a load of nonsense! If you’re making coffee, the coffee costs more than tea. The large quantity of milk in a cappuccino costs much more than the small quantity you need for those who add it to tea. Yet you charge around the same.

Since tea only costs a few cents per cup to make, why not splash out another two cents? You can probably even charge 20c more for the cup, so you are actually ahead. And by the way, if you make your own iced tea – well, when I had a shop, I could buy iced tea for $2.20 and sell it for $3,20, or make it for $0.04 and sell it for $4.50. Surely that maths is not beyond you?

  • EXCUSE 2:Tea Pouches / Tea Pyramids, Tea Sachets are as good as loose leaf.

No they aren’t;  they’re all tea bags. Stop fooling yourself. If it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Or an artificial duck call, which is a good comparison.

One of the biggest let downs ever is to see “loose leaf tea” proclaimed and then get a stinking tea bag. I’m surprised this does not lead to violent reprisals more often.

  • EXCUSE 3: It’s hard to make

Can your staff tie their own shoes? If not, hire new staff.

  • EXCUSE 4: It’s messy to make

I hear this a bit, and frankly, it’s pathetic. There are ceramic filter pots that will go through the dishwasher – just empty the leaves into the bin or organic scraps pile. You can use a plunger. You can use little infusers. When it comes to coffee, it’s got it’s own bin – that knock box under the counter. So it must be so much harder to empty an infuser or filter into the bin – Oh wait, it’s not!

Of course, there are alternatives to treating your customers properly. You could put a small sign on the door directing would-be customers to the nearest place that treats them properly. Or you can just carry on with any or all of the excuses above.

Have you heard of Fourquare? I never go into a cafe without checking it out. How about  Facebook? Twitter? Tomorrow I’m going to write the worst review I”ve ever written about a dining experience. The idiots that run the place probably don’t understand that anyone standing outside their cafe – which is in a square of nothing but cafés and restaurants – will be able to see that review and use it in their decision making process.

Yes, it’s a revolution. Yes we are up in arms, tweeting and texting, fioursquaring and tweeting. And in this revolution, if you don’t serve me loose leaf tea, your business is the first one up against the wall.

5 thoughts on “Café Quackery: The Great Tea Bag Rip-Off

  1. I couldn’t agree more. It absolutely drives me mad. My other HUGE pet peeve: You order tea and they serve it to you in a to go cup without mentioning that they left the tea bag IN THE COVERED CUP. So then I’m in my car with a big soggy dripping tea bag and WHERE EXACTLY SHOULD I PUT IT??? It would be SO hard to steep the tea for the appropriate time and then remove the bag?

  2. I agree with all those points. Drives me mad. Why should I, and my beverage, be treated like second (or third) class citizens?

    Another thing I really hate is when I just ask what they have for tea and they assume I want the Tetley tea bags & tepid water they bring out.

    Which is actually the other thing that ticks me off. More often than not they can’t bother to give you water of a proper temperature. I don’t drink green tea so I want something a bit hotter than lukewarm.

  3. @thedevotea: it is logical.
    Let’s say that tea bags and coffee cost more or less the same (this is an oversimplification but a realistic one I think).
    You use more water for the tea (bigger cup).
    Therefore you have to charge more for a cup of tea than for a cup of coffee.
    And then you can say “real” tea (even if it is in bags for most people, this is real tea) is expensive.

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