How long should you steep (infuse) the tealeaves in water? Again, keep it simple! We recommend steeping tea for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. This is a good average that will work for all teas and is an easy rule for wait staff to remember. Either set a timer and remove the tea behind the counter, or provide your customer with a timer at their table. If you are serving tea “to go” in fill-your-own tea bags, train your employees to remind customers to remove the bag after about 3.5 minutes or post a sign on your menu. Proper brewing times result in the best flavor overall. Certain teas (especially green teas) can go bitter when over steeped.
Even the best tea is only as good as the water used to prepare it. Always start with the freshest, purest source of water available. Avoid distilled, mineral and soft tap water, which will weaken tea’s flavor or impart a “chemical” or “off” taste. Filtered tap water or bottled spring water work best and will provide a lively, aromatic infusion. Restaurants, cafés and coffee shops should already have a water filtration system in place.
The hot water tap on espresso machines or coffee towers is a good water source for restaurants and cafés; professional machines typically heat small amounts of filtered water and constantly replenish their reserve.
If your business does not have professional equipment in place, we highly recommend purchasing a Zojirushi electric water dispenser, which keeps up to 5 liters of hot water at a constant temperature all day long. Alternatively, you can use a water cooler with a hot water tap.
Although the water must be hot enough to extract tea’s full flavor, water that is too hot can turn certain types of tea bitter. Most hot water sources are temperature controlled. For best results, set the water temperature to 195° F, which is just under boiling.
Store tea tightly sealed in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and strong odors. Glass or plastic storage containers (although we agree, these are very pretty!) are not recommended because they do not keep tea fresh. Foil bags or sturdy tin or stainless steel canisters work best. Do not refrigerate.
HOW LONG DOES TEA LAST?
When stored correctly (in a well-sealed container protected from heat, light, moisture and strong odors), tea has a shelf life of approximately 2 years. Although tea rarely goes bad, its flavor and antioxidant levels will weaken over time. Ideally, businesses should turn their tea over every 3-6 months. This allows plenty of time for customers to store their tea at home. At Octavia Tea, we blend tea in small batches and maintain a temperature-controlled warehouse to ensure you always receive the freshest tea possible.
All of our teas can be served over ice. To make fresh iced tea, simply double the amount of tealeaves used to account for dilution by ice. The cost/amount of tea used will be the same, since ice is added to the final brew. According to the USDA’s report on the antioxidant content of food, fresh iced tea contains 20 times more antioxidants than bottled or canned iced tea.
Get creative! Garnish iced tea with lemon slices, fresh mint sprigs, cucumber ice cubes (made with pureed cucumber and a touch of simple syrup) or “Sangria Style” with diced fruit, fresh or frozen berries or banana slices. You can also create custom iced tea cocktails by blending fresh iced tea with a touch of fruit juice, such as pomegranate juice or lemonade.
SPICED APPLE CIDER
Looking for a festive fall or winter treat? Ginger Cinnamon Spice is also great steeped in hot apple juice or cider (as a mulling spice). Chocolate Chai, Bombay Chai and Harvest Orange Spice make fabulous Spiced Chai Lattes: simply mix 2 tablespoons chai, 1 cup water, and 1 cup milk in a saucepan. Bring to a light boil and immediately reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar. Strain into a mug or pitcher and enjoy.
CAFFEINE FREE OPTIONS
Offer a selection of caffeine-free alternatives (such as red tea or chamomile). Lowering caffeine-intake is one of the many reasons people drink tea. Be sure to advertise which teas are 100% caffeine-free.
SELL WITH SCENT
Tester jars (small snifter jars) allow your customers to see, smell and experience the beautiful appearances and aromas of each tea. Tester jars are the equivalent of a “dessert tray” for tea. Not only does this create a fun, interactive environment, it also increases sales dramatically. In fact, wholesale customers that use tester jars have reported a 300% increase in tea sales. In a café environment, displaying tester jars also gives customers something to do while standing in line.
Offering a small cup of tea is a welcoming, friendly gesture, initiates conversation, introduces customers to your products and gives them confidence in their purchase. Businesses that sample consistently report higher sales.
MILK AND SUGAR
Strong, black teas (our Harvest Orange Spice is a perfect example) taste wonderful served with milk, honey or sugar. Gentle green and white teas may be overwhelmed by these additional ingredients.
EDUCATE YOUR STAFF
Educate your staff on the basics of tea. This will help them answer customers’ questions and feel confident representing the products in your store or café. The "Guide to Tea" section of this website is a great reference tool. You can also download and print out an abbreviated version for distribution to your staff.