|Tea from Blue Hill at Stone Barns|
Often restaurants will offer bagged tea that could easily be purchased by the box in any store for just a little more than their price for a pot. If it is a tea that I like, I may usually order a pot to support the restaurant's tea service. Perhaps the inflated prices can be be compared to the mark-up on wine. What really bothers me is when a restaurant charges upwards of $6 for a pot of tea, and it's not prepared properly.
My husband and I enjoy splurging on a high-end meal now and again. Tea often gets overlooked at these restaurants, but coffee is always of high quality. When asked about a tea selection, 9 times out of 10 the server doesn't know much more than if the tea is black, green, or herbal. When they do offer loose leaves, the teas are not always brewed correctly.
I've had one crazy tea experience at a 4-star NY restaurant. I ordered a 2nd flush Darjeeling (I was excited to see that this restaurant knew enough to say that it was a 2nd flush). The tea arrived in a dainty porcelain pot with all the appropriate accouterments. But when I gave it a taste, it was VERY bitter, and a dark maroon color. I love the full flavor that a 2nd flush Darjeeling allows. They can be a bit strong, but not bitter to the point of undrinkability. When the server came over, I pointed out that the tea was too bitter. He gave me a snooty look and said 'well, it IS a second flush Darjeeling'. Um, thanks fella. I sheepishly told him that I was familiar with this type of tea, and that it was over-steeped. I'm sure he also used too much tea. He let out a huge sigh, and whisked the tea away. When you are paying hundreds of dollars for dinner (I don't remember how much the pot of tea was, but I'm sure it was quite a bit), why would you want poorly prepared tea? Clearly he brewed the tea incorrectly, but didn't want to own up to it. Whatever the case, it is frustrating that coffee gets so much attention at high end restaurants, but teas do not. If a cup of coffee tasted off, it would be fixed without a problem.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns. They have a separate tea menu, which was exciting to see. The menu didn't state if the tea was a particular brand, so I asked. It was from SerendipiTEA. I've had this brand at home, so paying $6 for a pot seemed a little much, but in line with similar restaurants at this price point. I also know it is a fairly good quality tea. Besides, we were out for a special occasion, and I wanted a nice cup of tea! They had a black tea that I hadn't tried before, so I ordered it. The tea they prepared was fine, but it was a tiny bit on the weak side for me. Like most upscale restaurants, the leaves were removed from the pot before serving, and they were not included on the side. I wished that I could have steeped the tea for another 30 seconds or so. I'm sure if I had asked one of the servers, they would have brought fresh leaves for me, but that's not really the point. This restaurant was on the right track with their tea service. I just wish it would have been more interactive for me.
I guess the conclusion is just because a restaurant is 'fancy' it doesn't mean that their tea is better. It's possible that they do have quality leaves, but this gets lost if the tea is not prepared properly. Although when I am out and do get a good cup, it makes the meal all the more enjoyable whether I am at a local Thai joint, or 4 star restaurant. Tea lovers, what do you usually do? Do you have any solutions for all of the restaurants out there?