Beyond the branding and the stories of a speciality tea company, you need to find one where the quality of the tea lives up to your expectations. The leaves never lie, so taste as much as you can and learn how to evaluate quality. First, check the dry leaf, look at the shape, colour and aroma of the leaves. Most samples never get past this stage. Next, does the liquor have all the characteristics I am expecting? It’s easy to get taken in by branding, but ultimately it’s the taste that matters. So look for a company with excellent quality teas, a transparent supply chain and a partnership that offers great support. Always ask what else they can offer you beyond just tea - do they provide on-going training? Do they offer consultation?
Choose the right teas
Once you’ve chosen your supplier, you need the appropriate tea selection. At Mandarin Oriental, I oversee the afternoon tea service, in-room dining and breakfast service – all with different tea requirements. Choose the teas that are suitable for your customers, hit the right price point and support your food and drink offer. In-room dining and breakfast require a simpler selection, classics such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey are a given, along with calming herbals and digestif infusions such as mint. In The Rosebery, where we offer our award-winning afternoon tea service, customers expect a far more extensive and inventive selection. Here I can bring in seasonal drinks and rare, small-batch, exclusive teas.
Invest in the right equipment
If you are serious about delivering quality, it is essential to have the right equipment, especially if you are a high volume establishment. A temperature-controlled boiler or kettle is a must with properly installed water filters. A good supplier should be able to supply brewing equipment or advise on it at the very least.
Perfect your brewing
50% of your success comes from selecting the right leaves and 50% comes from brewing. Brewing technique is vital. If you invest in high-quality leaves and leave them to over steep at the table with the customer, it’s a waste of money. That’s why we always brew teas back of house then decant them to serve. If you want to take your service to the next level, you can bring the theatre of brewing to your customers. Brewing in the traditional Chinese gong-fu style or whisking matcha at the table creates an interactive experience that your guests will love and remember, like eating at chef’s table!
Train your staff
As with every dish in a restaurant, staff should be trained to have at least a basic knowledge of each tea. The ability to make recommendations and pair different teas to foods shows an extra level of care and expertise. This can only be achieved through training. Our entire staff has been through the Canton TEACH program and has regular top-up training sessions to ensure they are confident and knowledgeable and can provide the best guest experience.
I am a great fan of seasonal teas and will always add something special to complement the seasons. For Chinese New Year we gift our guests with mini Puerh cakes, for Valentine’s Day we make tea ‘love potions’ and we always have something warming and spicy for our festive menu. Our signature drinks and tea cocktails really set the Rosebery tea service apart. I love a brave and unexpected seasonal combination. Take the ‘Tokyo’, a pumpkin spiced Hojicha latte (pictured in Dominik's portrait) which I created this year for our autumn afternoon tea menu. The secret is to offer something new and surprising to keep your guests coming back.
If you would like more information about how Canton can help you create a world-class tea service, contact us now.