Tasting new tea program

Green tea

What would you think if your tea had leaves in it?

Very recently I learned that this is the most common way to drink tea in China (where they drink a lot of tea). I’d been serve tea with leaves floating a few times in the past, but figured it was sloppiness or ignorance. Then I was visiting Ernie, who builds our trucks, and he offered us some tea. His mother pulled out a beautiful green tea from a box in a drawer and dropped a few leaves in each cup then covered with hot water, then handed the cups to us. Of course it was delicious. I’m learning green teas when brewed properly are not bitter at all. They remind me of artichokes a bit. The flavor is subtle at first, but they have a strong persistence in your mouth. Even after eating others foods you can still taste the tea. Maybe it’s a flower thing?

Anyway, I went home and looked up this tea-in-the-cup method of brewing. I’ve never seen any restaurant or coffee shop anywhere do this. You just drink the cup. You don’t take the leaves out. When you’re done you add more water and steep again.

So I’ve been working on a new tea program for about 2 years, I’ve been experimenting with all types of brewing methods, and now I’ve come across something so simple and so obvious but entirely new. We’ll be testing this tea service with customers at CloverHSQ (7 Holyoke St., Cambridge) for the next week or so with a beautiful green tea and a dark-ish oolong. Come by and try it out.

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10 Responses to Tasting new tea program

  1. Diane 17 January, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Oh wow, I never realized that loose tea is such a novel concept here! I grew up drinking a lot of tea, and my Chinese immigrant parents always used the method you described above. So to me, teabags are strange.

    And just a side note: if brewed properly, the tea should not have any leaves floating at the top. If there are, that means the water wasn’t hot enough.

  2. Justin 20 January, 2013 at 2:10 am #

    If you want to be taken seriously by tea drinkers, I suggest that you label your tea beyond “green” or “oolong”, which is the equivalent of a restaurant offering a “red” wine and a “white” wine. There a huge differences between gunpowder, mao feng, sencha, gyokuro, dragonwell, …

    Also — tea leaves, even the good stuff, are cheaper per serving than coffee beans. And the labor involved in this kind of tea brewing is far far less than in pourover brewing of coffee. So why do you charge $3 for a cup of tea?

  3. ayr 20 January, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Justin —

    Thanks for posting your note!
    Have you been into the restaurant to try the tea? We have tons of info about each tea, and if you’re interested in the teas the order taker/ person pouring the tea should be engaging you in conversation and talking to you at a level appropriate to your interest. Some customers don’t know a lot and are really best served by just tasting and enjoying their first time, while others are seasoned and would like to talk about the pluck date and tea garden or origin and what type of firing the tea went through. In reality the differences in tea are more like the differences in coffee, which I’m learning and find really exciting. They go well beyond gnupowder, mao feng, sencha, etc. and get down to location of tea garden, type of bush, pluck date, part of bush plucked, method of drying, method of processing etc.

    But like out coffee it can be overwhelming for a newbie to get into all of these details. And it’s not really our style to tell you stuff unless you’re interested. This is not unlike our beer program, our coffee, our soup, our breakfast sandwich. The menu says “beer” but that’s not because we don’t know nor care what the beer is. We know a massive amount about the beer we’re serving, but we’d rather communicate that face-to-face than through the menu.

    I’ve seen this working really well this past week and have been really proud of my employees. If you were by did you see that type of conversation happening? Do you think that’s a bad approach to this? Would love to know your thoughts.

    On price, you assume a cost+ model of pricing which isn’t ever how we’ve approached pricing. We come close to losing money on some items we sell, and we make much more on other items. We consider many factors when deciding on price including competitive pricing, value, how much of a hassle the items is for our organization, cost, etc.

    I feel very confident that $3 is a beautiful price for what I know is the best tea being served anywhere in Boston.

  4. ayr 20 January, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Thanks for your note! I had never heard that about not falling to the bottom. I’m going to play with that.

  5. Justin 20 January, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Actually Ayr, your menu says Pretty Things Baby Tree and it also says exactly what kinds of coffee you’re serving.

    But for myself anyway, the price you’re competing with is not any cafe or tea shop but the ease with which I can add some hot water to some tea leaves in a cup.

  6. ayr 20 January, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    You’re right, we ID our beer and coffee on the electronic menu, though on the written menu it just says “beer.” Sometimes we add a minimal identifier to the coffee on the written menus to distinguish between the $2 and $3. the broader point is that we’re a bit short with our communications most of the time and would like to drive the live conversation.

    Still curious — have you stopped by the restaurant to try the tea?

    On pricing, I think this is a funny obstacle tea faces in the US. People don’t have any issue paying for bottled water, but there’s this idea that tea is “just a bag in water.” There’s no question that’s a part of what has gotten in the way of tea being a bigger deal here, at least in a retail context.

    I think if you taste the teas we’re experimenting with you’re going to be really surprised.

  7. Justin 20 January, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    You’re right that tea is far too often just a bag in water (*cough* starbucks *cough*), but I think that actually giving details about your tea varieties would help to dispel that notion.

    As for myself, I’m willing to believe that you’ve obtained excellent tea, but I haven’t tried it, and at that price point I don’t think I will. I have plenty of very excellent tea on hand already, so it is hard to justify spending $3 merely for the convenience. (I would never buy bottled water, either!)

  8. Justin 20 January, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    (Which is to say, it would take me a lot of effort to make an egg and egg sandwich, or any of your 3pm specials, but I can very easily brew myself a cup of tea as good as anything Clover can make. This is why I buy your 3pm specials at $3, but not your tea at the same price.)

  9. ayr 20 January, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    I hear you, and I suspect you’re not the only one of your type (though I think 99.99% of us have bought bottled water before).

    I’d still encourage you to try our tea. We’d be happy to make you a sample that will cost $0. I think you’ll love what we’re doing.


  1. Hold onto those tea cups | Clover Food LabClover Food Lab - 24 January, 2013

    […] sold out of all of our green and oolong teas within a few days of the last post. Nobody has seemed to mind the leaves at the bottom of their cups (at least no one has spoken up […]

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