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Tea is a highmargin product that can also boost flavor in many foods
<p>Tea is a high-margin product that can also boost flavor in many foods.</p>

3 ways to boost your tea profits

<p><a href="/trends/drink-trends">&bull; See more Beverage Trends articles</a></p>

Want a sneak preview of the moneymaking advice that will be dispensed at next month’s World Tea Expo in Las Vegas? Check out what a trio of experts who focus on the restaurant industry and will be presenting there have to say in a new white paper, “Advancing the Business of Tea: How Key Vertical Markets Can Profit Through Tea.”

Their top recommendations: create more tea-based signature food flavors, just say no to leftover iced tea and, for the adventurous, start a kombucha flight program at your restaurant.


Here’s their advice.

1. Pastry chef and cookbook author (The Dessert Architect) Robert Wemischner wants restaurateurs, chefs and mixologists to keep in mind that tea has uses that extend well beyond its primary function as a beverage. He says tea can also be an ingredient in cooking and baking and can boost the flavor profile of many, many foods.

“In the restaurant world, chefs are increasingly recognizing the cachet of putting a dish cooked with tea on the menu,” Wemischner says. “There is mystery and intrigue in a dish that gains its extra flavor from tea.

But you’ll still have to sell it to customers.

“Romancing the marriage of flavors resulting from the use of a specific tea cooked with or paired with a specific food leads to sales. Scallops with Keemun tea-based pan sauce anyone? A salad of tea smoked duck? A Lapsang Souchong vinaigrette over a chicken salad with crunchy sugar snap peas? Fresh young goat cheese with sencha? A ripe blue cheese with puerh? Rhubarb poached in tea topped with a scoop of chai-flavored ice cream? All this and more is possible when approaching tea with an open mind and a creative spirit.”

2. Beverage consultant Scott Svihula has a definite opinion on whether restaurants that fresh brew iced tea in house should refrigerate leftover product overnight and sell it the next day. His advice: If any iced tea remains at the end of service, pitch it.

“When tea is refrigerated, it not only absorbs refrigerator odors, it also undergoes a fundamental chemical change that degrades the taste and creates a cloudy, off-color appearance,” he says. Ironically, “the better the quality of the tea you buy, the greater the potential chemical change. That’s due to the higher concentrations of polyphenols in high-end teas, polyphenols being what gives tea its health benefits, mouthfeel and color.”

Won’t throwing away this product result in a loss to the restaurant? Svihula says “no.”

“Tea is the most profitable item on the menu. On average, one glass sold per brew (up to and including a three-gallon brew) pays for the entire batch brewed. Based on this, there is no financial reason to save the tea overnight in the refrigerator. Especially knowing that doing so will significantly lower the quality of the tea. In fact, there is a solid case that selling such tea will reduce overall sales due to unhappy customers. This is due to the fact that often tea is the first and last item customers consume.”

3. Want to give your beverage lineup a contemporary spin? Consider offering kombucha on tap.

“Fermented beverages and foods are trending,” says Leanne Herrera, proprietor of Zama Tea and Kombucha in Orange County, CA. “Kombucha is a popular, slightly fizzy, fermented tea. It is the fastest growing beverage in the industry with 30 to 50 percent growth in the past three years. Kombucha is a probiotic beverage containing live bacteria and yeast cultures that aid digestive health. Tea customers are generally health-conscious, and adding this super-drink will please customers.”

Herrera says restaurants will quickly recoup any money they invest when they start a kombucha program.

“Carrying fermented beverages will add dollars to your bottom line. Our sales grew 50 percent in the first three months of adding hand-crafted kombucha to our menu. There’s a wide variety of flavors you can create by adding fruit, juices or herbs. We offer a ‘Kombucha Flight’ for people who want to try several flavors at once. It keeps customers coming back to try new varieties.”

Herrera adds that kombucha is an easy upsell to many customers because of the health benefits it offers. Another plus: kombucha is still new enough in mainstream settings that your restaurant may attract some different types of customers than it currently does.

Interested? The best place to shop for kombucha or other tea products is World Tea Expo. The next edition is set for June 13-17 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Contact Bob Krummert: [email protected]

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