June 29, 2017

Profit in Specialty Tea Service

From our early childhood experiences of an afternoon tea stemming from our English roots to our more recent European style tea brewing methods, our tea culture is brimming with ethnic diversity. With the café scene flourishing across Australia, the opportunities to experience this diversity have never been better, with many of us making the visit to a café a daily ritual.

Similar to other daily commodities, tea totallers are now also demanding more from their biscuit companion. The old café days of a retail supermarket tea bag in a take away pot for $3 – $4.00 are mostly behind us, as the café industry now embraces the specialty loose-leaf tea for $7 – $9.00.

Smart café owners know that from the cherished first tea flush of spring, the mellow autumn harvest to the rarer winter pluck, tea follows the seasons, and so too do our tastes. It’s a concept that many a specialty café face seasonally, and to make change is never an easy commercial decision. However, today’s ever changing specialty café menu can incorporate these seasonal beverages.

Consider offering a seasonally curated list of teas and infusions ranging from single origins to more familiar tea blends. Not only does this correspond with different harvests, it also brings people back to try new items on the menu. Adopting this seasonal approach can highlight the spectrum of beverage options offered, whilst catering to diverse tastes.
Major Tea Trends Expected 2017
• Increased loose-leaf tea consumption
• Over 50% of all cafés serve loose leaf tea service
• Increased interest in leafy grade teas. Emergence of specialty tea houses and retailers
• Consumers becoming more educated by all forms of tea
• Tea as a profession. Cafés with barista/tea service specialists
• Introduction of exotic, wild, rare and unique teas
• Focus on healthy lifestyle choices
Where do I start my tea journey?

Make your tea venue more like a home away from home. On any given night you’re more likely to encounter moviegoers from a nearby cinema, a book club session, people from nearby restaurants or a community group all finishing up their night’s proceedings, where the opportunity to have a cup of tea before heading home becomes available.

The modern tea café, notably, does not serve coffee and takes its cue from European tea houses, which are a hub of late night social activity.

“Having had numerous encounters with tea while travelling and living overseas, particularly in Europe, I saw that there was a different social culture. That culture could be encouraged with tea,” says David. “I explored many amazing late night tea-houses with inspiring ambience and diverse offerings and realised that these refined, relaxed spaces were missing from many cities.

“It’s this sense of place that makes a pot of tea at your café more than an evening caffeine hit. Seeing people interact with the space and enjoy the experience is incredibly rewarding.”

Change your Tea Menu: Want to encourage tea drinkers to visit your café? Go beyond the standard tea menu. You don’t need a list the size of a novel. You can start by offering one different tea every month to retain interest.
Make it an Event: Events give people a reason to visit your venue. We suggest you feature a suite of regular and one-off activities to bring people in. From weekly community groups, parent groups offering special tea to food pairing sessions.
Join a Community: Find opportunities to connect with and share experiences of those involved in the tea industry by joining industry associations or introducing yourself to the owners of tea businesses. These people hold valuable information for you and are usually very happy to share.
Sell from the Shelf: Don’t forget, you can use your café as a retail space as well. If people like your products, give them the option to try some at home or as a gift. Retail can be very profitable.

For those high volume CBD cafés, there is more profit to be made by offering a better quality tea bag take away cup. Here is an example of tea profitability from 2016, to best explain the profit break down.

Perhaps next step to increase profitability is not to focus on the type of specialty tea served in cafés, rather how the tea is served. Do I prepare the tea behind the counter or at the guests’ table? Do I set up in fancy porcelain high tea ware style, or do I use hard, long life durable tea ware. These are a just a couple of questions that need consideration when looking at improving tea service.

In the new regular column coined “The AASTA Tea Culture section” of the Café Culture Magazine, we wish to assist the entire café market to embrace specialty loose-leaf tea service. Tea in many cases mirrors the specialty coffee consumer trends of today’s top cafés. Equally, specialty tea has a real place in cafés wishing to provide the best service to their retail customers and potentially offer more sales and profits to merely “coffee only” outlets. Our specialty tea market is booming, and those in specialty cafés that have a tea culture presence whom have mastered the “New Style”café tea service are profiting from it.


The research and the chart used are a summary from the annual “State Of The Café Industry Report” – for more information, contact me at or Mobile 0423 200 206.


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