tea for dummies


Hey! You hotel and restaurant people! It appears to be common knowledge in your trade that tea is made by soaking a small bag of sawdust in lukewarm water from a coffee-maker.

With me so far? Good!

No! Wrong! Totally wrong! Where did you learn this? Stop doing it!

Tea is made using boiling water. Not boiled water. Boiling water can easily be recognized by the fact that:

  1. It is bubbling
  2. There is steam coming out of it
  3. You can't keep your finger in it for long

Also, tea comes in the shape of free leaves. These may indeed be delivered in a bag for convenience, but there are no strings attached.

There are different types of tea. Each with a different flavour. And a different name. This cunningly clever principle was put in place so people could easily recognize one from each other.

The teas are significantly different that you should ask your guests which flavour they prefer (As opposed to grabbing a random coloured bag from the Lipton box on the counter).

Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Darjeeling?
Rare, medium, well done?

See? Not that hard, now is it? Notice the striking similarity to the familiar "Steak Ordering Process" (Waiter's Handbook pg. 101).

And finally: You make tea in a pot, not in a cup. Note the subtle difference between the two words: P-O-T vs. C-U-P. Pots and cups may both be pottery, but they are not one and the same thing. You make tea in a pot and serve it in a cup.

The preparation process involves pouring some boiling water into the pot to preheat it. Put the kettle back on and make the rest of the water boil again. Then you empty the pot, put in the tea leaves, and—as quickly as possible—pour the boiling water into the pot. Put on the lid and a teacozy (must keep it warm) and let it steep for a few minutes.

Wars have been fought over the exact amount of minutes. And the exact of amount of tea leaves. And whether to extract said tea leaves from the pot or not. So let's not go there. Ask your guests!

At this point you should know enough to make tea. Real tea. With flavour. That makes you feel good and go "ahhhhh". As opposed to that bitter, foul-tasting thing you serve me every morning and charge me $3.50 for.

List of hotels in the United States where I have been served real tea:

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This public service announcement was brought to you by The Frequent Traveller's Department for Education of Hotel and Restaurant Staff.