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Restaurant Tea: Deliver the Best by Knowing the Three T’s

April 7th, 2018

The success of any restaurant tea program can be boiled down to three things: tea, temperature, and time.


Two of the most common questions I get when doing staff tea training for our wholesale restaurant tea accounts are:  “How long should we steep these for?” and “Do we need water at different temperatures for different teas?”


It’s wonderful that they are asking.  I remember a time not so long ago when restaurant tea programs consisted of scratched industrial metal teapots, a doily, and some kind of bottom shelf supermarket brand Orange Pekoe still in it’s packet, leaned up against the side of the teapot – sometimes with a sad little lemon slice.  But I digress.


Time and temperature are both important to consider when preparing premium teas of various types.  Wholesale tea customers have some unique challenges operationally in addressing both.  Many, if not most, are taking hot water from a red tap off a coffee machine, or from an espresso machine – which can produce wildly different temperatures.  The best solution is a hot water tower with variable temperature settings, but that is not always possible to install.


Here are some easy strategies for producing a top – notch restaurant tea program, no matter what your setup is.


  1. Check your water temperature, and if possible, calibrate your machine to deliver 195 degree water for tea.
  2. Know the teas you are offering, and the categories they fall into: Black /  Green / Herbal.  These are the most popular categories in restaurant tea, but you may also have an Oolong or white tea on menu – check the label for time and temperature information
  3. Train staff to deliver teas to the table quickly (to avoid oversteeping if they are left sitting) and with this simple phrase: “Please allow a few minutes for this tea to steep” for black and herbal teas, or “This tea needs a little less time than others to steep – it should be ready in two minutes” for green teas.  Little tea timers are also available to bring to the table, but they add an additional step.


Your restaurant tea program likely (hopefully) consists of three categories:  Black Tea, Green Tea, and Herbal Tea. White teas and oolongs may also be included.


Black Teas / Herbal Teas


Black Teas include English Breakfasts, Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey, etc.  These teas are best steeped with a high temperature to fully release their flavour. Near boiling is perfect – 195 – 205 is the ideal range.  Most restaurant coffee equipment can be calibrated to produce water at this temperature if you don’t have a stand – alone water tower. Herbal teas are also best steeped with this temperature range.


Green teas can be pure tea leaves or blends such as our Movie Night or Apple on the Green. Green teas are ideally steeped in the 180 degree range. Steeped too hot, green teas can become bitter.


At Pluck, we have carefully blended and selected green teas from growers and regions that produce more ‘forgiving’ greens, and we tend to avoid teas that are overly sensitive to temperature. To achieve the ideal temperature for greens (180-185 F) when your water source is set at 195 degrees, you have three simple options:


  1. Add a shot of cold water to the tea in the pot before pouring hot water in.
  2. Use the 2-step method: pour water into a teapot, and then pour that water into the teapot you will be using (this will step down the water by 10 degrees).  It’s a good idea to keep a room temperature ceramic pot in easy reach of the water station exactly for this purpose
  3. Pour water into the pot, and let it sit for five minutes before adding tea. This is not a great solution for busy or rapid service restaurant tea customers, but it does work in a more relaxed service environment.


Tea Type Time Temperature
Black + Herbals (Including Rooibos) 5 minutes 195 – 205 F
Green 2-3 minutes 180 – 185 F


Pluck Tea is a premium and sustainable tea company that specializes in blending with locally grown and upcycled ingredients for restaurant tea programs.  Wholesale tea information can be found here.