Tea drinker’s bill of rights

The other day my colleague Maggie Savarino [posted on Twitter](http://twitter.com/wineoffensive/status/6474946956) to complain about poor tea service:

> Tea service in Seattle SUCKS.

So in the spirit of that New York Times blog post about [100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do](http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/one-hundred-things-restaurant-staffers-should-never-do-part-one/), let’s come up with a tea drinker’s bill of rights. I don’t have all of the amendments, so I need you to come to my constitutional convention and help out.

I also recognize that tea service poses some problems. There are many kinds of tea, each with its own brewing parameters, and tea attracts picky customers. But you could say the same about the standard menu of espresso drinks–compared to regular and decaf drip, it seems impossibly expensive and complicated. Why, you’d have to charge $3 for a cup of coffee!

Exactly. So along with these rights, I’d like to offer a couple of rights to cafes: the right to charge as much for a cup of tea as you charge for a latte; the right to make customers wait until the tea has properly brewed; and the right to serve a streamlined menu of teas. My favorite teahouse, [Remedy Teas](http://remedyteas.com), serves 150 teas. Your coffee place doesn’t have to. For that matter, there’s no reason a cafe can’t serve good tea and cheap teabags, drinker’s choice.


1. The right to filtered water at the proper temperature. Especially for green tea, which needs much cooler water than black or oolong tea.

2. The right to fresh, loose-leaf tea. I carry teabags with me when I travel, and it’s certainly possible to find good tea in bags. (A shout-out to [MyGreenTea](http://www.mygreentea.com/) and [Sugimoto USA](http://www.sugimotousa.com/).) But the best tea doesn’t come in bags, and they’re kind of janky in a way that jars with the cafe experience.

3. The right to not be responsible for determining how long to brew the tea. If you’re having tea to stay, the cafe can furnish you with a digital timer. If you’re having it to go, they should time it for you, because you have…

4. The right to take tea to go without a teabag in it. Otherwise you get oversteeped tea, unless you take the lid off and drop the teabag into a trash can on the street and splash hot tea on your wrist and cry in public.

What else? Please weigh in.

11 thoughts on “Tea drinker’s bill of rights

  1. Alana

    I would add the right to a variety of sweetening and dairy-adding options. Different teas are complemented by different types of sugar.

    I’m not sure it’s a right, but I definitely appreciate when a tea place has something good to eat in at least three categories: very sweet (petit fours, cookies, pastries), slightly sweet (good scones, shortbread, quick breads), and savory (little sandwiches, small quiches). Remedy Teas does all three of these really well.

  2. Dawn

    My pet peeve about tea isn’t in cafes, but when I order tea at restaurants. A corollary to #4 is that if they bring you a pot of tea with the tea still steeping in it, that they provide you a place to take out the tea, so it doesn’t get oversteeped. Or better, they should just brew it the right amount of time themselves before serving it.

  3. Wendy

    My needs, my minimum requirements that are too frequently not met, are smaller and sadder and start with “the water shouldn’t be microwaved”.

    I think it is the duty of all tea places to serve tea with a little treat that you totally forgot was coming (like a cookie) the way they do in Holland. Best Practice would be to have the best little treat for that particular tea, so if a bite-sized quiche is best, they should bring a bite-sized quiche.

  4. Tamara

    Also, when serving tea in a restaurant, offer refills of hot water for teas that can be brewed again. Tea drinkers shouldnt have to sit with an empty cup while coffee refills go on and on and on.

  5. josh g.

    Best tea experience I’ve ever had was at the Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, CO. They brought out your tea, steeping, with a little hourglass to let you know when your tea would be ready. (And they had different amounts of sand in hourglasses for different types of tea.) Their menu had two pages of food and about 7 pages of teas to choose from. I ordered a $5 tea (white tea of some kind, I think? I forget now) and felt very fancy.

    So basically I’d just like one of these to be near where I live instead of halfway across the continent.

  6. KT

    At a minimum, cafe staff should be educated in the basics of tea: green tea needs less-than-hot water, ask “do you want room for cream?” for black tea.

    If I order tea to go, it would be nice to have a timer; or be given the tea steeped for the correct time so I don’t have to fish out the bag.

    If I order tea for here, I want a small dish or even just a dixie cup to put the tea bag in in case I want a refill.

    The Dushanbe place in CO sounds great; there’s a very nice tea house in Bend, OR – Townshend’s – my only complaint is they bring out your tea pot for you to pour your own water, with a candle heater to keep it warm, but then you have to carry your (very small) teacup over to the counter to get cream and sugar. They should bring you a little cream pitcher and sugar with your order.

  7. Cheryl A

    I would clarify that the right temperature is always more than lukewarm. I hate, hate, hate when you want a steaming cup of tea and you get a lukewarm pot of water, with no lid.

  8. Rebecca

    The right to be offered milk, cream, or lemon.

    I’d be rich if I had a quarter for every time I get a cup of luke warm water with an unnamed tea-bag swimming in it and a side of cream. Argh.

    Nthing about the temperature of the water. Most of the water I get from restaurants seems to come out of the side spigot of a coffee maker. This results in water that is typically below the boiling point; but if coffee’s just been made the water can actually be luke warm or room temperature!

    The right to put your tea bag/loose tea into the pot yourself.

    Thank you for dunking my tea-bag for me. And so — how long did the tea sit there waiting for the rest of the order before you brought it to my table?

  9. nomitai

    The right to have the hot water poured over the leaves or tea bag. Don’t dunk the bag in hot water – it’s not the same. I bought some Numi tea at their table at some function at Seattle Center, and the server handed me a cup of hot water and the bag. Meh.

  10. Caroline

    Part of the problem is that so few eateries/cafes (tea shops excepted) are set up to serve tea. I mean, when I worked in a coffee shop, we did actually have ceramic teapots and looseleaf tea to serve, but no way to serve hot water except boiling, straight from the boiling-water spigot. And this was at a pretty schmancy place. The infrastructure for coffee (boiling water, big urns for coffee, a dedicated espresso machine, presspots for French cuppings) is so totally different than for tea, it’s kind of amazing any of these places serve tea at all.

    Which is why I usually just order a chai in a coffee shop.

  11. eM

    preach it my brutha!
    and I must say that when you are having a near perfect restaurant meal, (say, brunch in West Seattle::cough::) the loose leaf black tea delivered sans milk, a saucer on which to deposit the tea basket, or any mention of steeping time that may or may not have lapsed makes ME want to cry

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