What is in this article?:
- Specialty tea service grows at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
- A different customer experience
The chain offers single-estate teas from Sri Lanka, Ah Li mountain tea from Taiwan and other premium brews that customers can’t find elsewhere.
Just as consumers are moving away from mainstream beer to microbrews and from commodity coffee to premium varieties, when it comes to tea, the more specialized the better, said David DeCandia, director of tea at the 850-unit Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain.
In fact, the interest in the healthful attributes of tea, particularly green tea, that industry watchers say have helped drive growth in the beverage’s popularity in recent years, has been replaced by a focus on the tea itself. “The discussions of green tea’s health benefits aren’t as prominent as they used to be,” said DeCandia, who over the past 17 years has seen tea grow from 1 percent of the chain’s sales mix to about 20 percent now.
“The growth is really in the orthodox specialty teas. Like wines and specialty beers and cigars and all that jazz, people are really digging the fact that tea can be grown in a certain area and a certain elevation and in a certain field,” and have different taste qualities as a result, he said. “That’s what people are really striving for. They want to see a special [tea] that’s gone through an enormous amount of steps and is only made a certain time of year. That appeals to them.”
“We’re finding that customers are saying, ‘Yeah, I like that first flush Darjeeling.’” He added.
That interest has allowed him to offer single-estate teas from Sri Lanka, Ah Li mountain tea from Taiwan and other premium brews that customers can’t find elsewhere.
In part to see if that interest in finer teas might also contribute to a lifestyle change, about a year ago DeCandia introduced tableside tea service at 10 Los Angeles area locations.
“I do a lot of traveling for the company, and I spend a lot of time drinking tea, and over the years I realized that tea was more than just a beverage. It was an opportunity to spend time with people and share ideas.
“I think now people have reached the point where not everything needs to be quick service, push-of-the-button, on the go,” he said, adding that, by presenting people with a tea pot, a couple of pastries and ceramic cups rather than paper or plastic, “it gives people the opportunity to take time and sit down instead of rushing.”