AFTERNOON tea is said to have been first created by Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the early 19th century. It is thought that, as the evening meal in her household was served increasingly late in the day, typically around 8pm or 9pm, there was too long a gap between lunch and dinner for her liking.
From there, afternoon tea – served between 4pm and 5pm – was born, going on to became a social occasion in its own right, which is arguably as popular again today as it was in the 1800s.
And for savvy operators, this mid-afternoon treat can be a real money spinner, according to suppliers consulted by SLTN, who stressed the importance of a quality offer.
Anna Sentance, gourmet marketing manager at Belgian chocolate brand, Callebaut, said: “Across the whole foodservice arena, consumer expectations are rising – with a growing demand for better quality, and this expectation also extends to the afternoon tea market.”
This was echoed by Allan Pirret, sales director of Novus Tea, who said the classic brew “has to be the focus even if other alcoholic drinks, such as Champagne or Prosecco, are also offered”.
“There is a huge surge in demand for premium teas and infusions, so it’s important for operators to team up with a market-leading, premium brand capable of delivering the quality, taste, innovation and support that customers expect,” he said.
“This means better tasting, more interesting and perhaps healthier options including green teas, fruit and herbal teas, speciality blends and matcha.”
Marco Olmi, director of The Drury Tea & Coffee Company, told SLTN that while tea is important, “coffee is also very popular and should be offered as an alternative, alongside hot chocolate”.
But afternoon tea is about more than the beverages. As a social occasion which is viewed as a treat, the right presentation can make all the difference when it comes to repeat custom or recommendations.
Pirret of Novus Tea said: “Promotion and presentation are key to a successful afternoon tea offer.
“Equipment such as tea chests are an excellent way of presenting your tea range, as are leaf display boxes, which allow customers to see the whole leaf teas before they buy. Other promotional opportunities include table talkers, posters and loyalty cards.”
And to ensure professional delivery of the offer, appropriate staff training is vital, according to Jon Usher of commercial water boiler brand, Burco.
“In the same way that employees are often trained to become a barista, educating staff on the perfect tea serve is essential, not only in satisfying customers but also in generating repeat business,” he said.
“That being said, training can only go so far and the perfect cup of tea can only be produced using the equipment specifically designed for this purpose. Using the correct water temperature and brewing time are crucial to continually serving delicious tea, especially when offering a range of speciality teas across a menu.”