“It’s better to have loved, than too have never been in love before”…
Still remember a famous world-level Specialty Tea master that said to me “Good loose Specialty Tea must be hand crafted, because that's where the soul of tea is created”. As an emotional Specialty Tea drinker and lover of tea, I really enjoy and am often moved by those great handmade Specialty Tea as every piece of their tea is made by high skilled old tea masters and with this deep LOVE! It's such a lucky thing to drink those truly Specialty Teas with loved soul... I am also reminded of the rich and pure nature of China’s immense 5,000 year old Specialty Tea Culture that I have been only recently introduced too via my roles at the Australasian Specialty Tea Association and now as the AASTA President I wish to learn from more of my peers and the wider Tea Industry.
As an Industry Researcher, Media / Marketing Specialist, Specialty Tea & Coffee Lover, I am often seeing the global best practice in the beverage market via our amazing team at Café Culture and our international network of leading Café leaders and companies worldwide. Yes, we all know Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water, and can be found in almost 80% of all U.S. households. According to the Tea Association of the USA, approximately four in five U.S. consumers drink tea, with millennials and the Youth being the most likely candidates. As for Australian’s the love affair with Tea dates back the early English Colonies here in 1888. Today, Tea continues to dominate both household pantry, Office tea rooms, Supermarket aisles and more recently over the past three years Specialty Cafés have embraced Specialty “loose leave tea service” into their gourmet Café Beverage Menu’s with reports from many Café Owners of as high as 9% of total Café beverage sales coming from doing TEA SERVICE right.
With the enormous power of the word “tea”, even other tisanes (herbal beverages) marketers have started to add this word at the end of their product. Specialty Tea was first discovered by the Chinese emperor Shen Nong about 5,000 years ago. But recent archeological findings in the eastern part of China have proved that the Chinese knew about tea’s amazing benefits even before Shen Nong’s era. From there onwards, tea has evolved into the most popular beverage in the world by providing refreshment and many health benefits for billions of specialty tea lovers.
The Australian market still has a long way to go to mature. A lot of the tea drinkers are retail blend conditioned tea consumers that often regarded as flavoured, scented and/or blended tea, the rise in the supermarket friendly convenient “Tea Bag” as mostly the most definitive of the specialty tea sector. There is rarely an understanding of terroir and only a minority have ever experienced and appreciated the amazing differences between tea grown and processed in one region of a particular Country or at an origin plantation versus another. Only by leveraging wine parallels do relatively immature tea-lovers start to understand specialty single origin tea. The sheer enjoyment of a traditional China Pu'er tea, for example, is extremely difficult to explain to an absolute beginner.
It is important, however, not to make the mistakes the wine industry made when educating the public, which is to say the tea industry needs to avoid becoming elitist and snobbish. I have personally adopted the attitude of opening palates, which is to say I've taught myself not to judge someone who nominates Earl Grey as their regular Retail Purchase favourite, but will instead encourage them to try other specialty tea they've never tasted before.
However Specialty tea is not alone in this regard. While a good barista-made Milk Based coffee is now standard, there are still comparatively few people who appreciate “Black Coffee, No Milk” as a single origin and specialty coffee – Facts are less than 7% of population in this comparison. Perhaps the next step for us is not to focus on the type of specialty tea served in Café, let us now focus the way it is served. Just how to brew, steep and best serve specialty loose left tea to Café Beverage Menu’s and the best way effectively. Do I set up in Fancy Porcelain English Breakfast / High Tea ware style or do we use hard long life durable tea ware is the question you must choose for best fit use in your individual café setting.
As the President of the Australasian Specialty Tea Association, I have stated recently the hospitality sector is due for a tea change and we all need to observe that there is now a "scientific approach to tea infusion" used by many cafes. I believe that as technology evolves we can expect “the introduction of more refined and automated tea brewing equipment".
In this new regular column being coined the AASTA Tea Culture section of the Café Culture Magazine we wish to assist the entire Café Market to embrace Specialty Loose Leaf Tea service within the four walls of their expanding beverage Menu Cafés. Tea in many cases mirrors the “Specialty Coffee Consumer Trends” of high quality, single origin and carefully crafted “Bean Seed To Cup”. Equally Specialty Tea “Leaf to Cup” has a real place in elite Cafes wishing to best serve their retail customers and potentially offers more sales and profits to merely COFFEE SHOP only outlets. Specialty Tea market is booming in those specialty eastern coast Cafes that have a Tea Culture presence and have mastered the “New Style” café tea service profits. I might take this opportunity to remind café owners of the VERY EXPENSIVE SPECIALTY COFFEE MACHINERY FITOUT COSTS Vs. that of the much lower expense of Specialty Tea service. Those Café owners offering such a mix are fully aware of the profits to be gained in providing high quality specialty teas on their menus as well as their roasted Coffee’s.