Sometimes I go out to eat and am neither feeling like a full bottle of wine nor a ten dollar mixology cocktail, and I want something other than tap water or sweetened iced tea.
I find the vast majority of restaurants get so caught up in building the perfect wine program that they forget about their beverage program as a whole and sacrifice a lot of potential income, growth, and opportunity to distinguish themselves.
Imagine making a reservation at a highly regarded restaurant for a special occasion. You order the five-course tasting paired with wines, and each course is flawlessly matched with different wines from around the world, all uncorked and poured properly, the neck of the bottle wiped after each pour. Dessert arrives with two glasses of madeira, and you are near the end when your server asks if he can offer you a digestif or any tea or coffee. Not in a rush to leave, you take him up on his offer. You have a long drive home, so you ask for tea, and your date requests coffee. He arrives with a selection of tea bags, and you choose a green tea. He then returns with the same glass a cheap glass coffee pot, and a cup of scalding hot water into which he drops your tea bag. Your date crinkles her nose after sipping the coffee, and your drink just tastes like water that has been boiling too long.
I find it troubling that little to no information is provided about a restaurant’s selection of coffee and tea, beverages that are most often a diner’s last impression before leaving. Both of these beverages have a long history and tradition that rivals wine in many ways (tea is more than 5000 years old and its consumption is second only to water!). Just think of how we restaurants could educate their customers about the terroir of China vs. Japan, Java vs. Guatemala, by crafting a wider selection of premium coffee and tea. Then consider how much more revenue a restaurant could bring from such premium, exclusive beverage selections.
Adam Sachs is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Certified Tea Specialist by the Specialty Tea Institute. He now works for PersonalPhilanthropy.org in Perú as the Coordinator for a project called Tell Stories That Matter.