This article is sponsored by our partner, Maya Tea.
As much as we’d like to believe that coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world, tea beats our beloved beans by a landslide. Ranking as the second most consumed beverage after water, humans can’t get enough of the nearly 1000 varieties of tea.
According to the Tea Association of the USA, Americans consumed nearly 85 billion servings of tea in 2021. Even though colonists in Boston destroyed a tea ship in an act of political defiance almost three centuries ago, the United States remains the world’s third-largest tea importer behind Russia and Pakistan.
While these drinks may appear simplistic and straightforward, tea beverages tend to cause several service bottlenecks behind the bar—especially as demand for tea continues to grow. But Tea Shots, a new product from Maya Tea Company with the power to expedite service and improve drink consistency, might be the solution we’ve been waiting for.
Slowing Down (Bar Flow) With Tea
Traditionally, tea is made by steeping tea leaves in hot or cold water. Although baristas can prepare large quantities of iced or cold brew tea in advance, individual beverages such as hot teas require three or four minutes to steep (or much longer for herbal teas). With the increasing popularity of tea-based drinks, steeping times can easily interrupt a coffee shop’s efficiency and bar flow. Signature tea-based beverages, such as London fogs or matcha lattes, require additional labor from baristas, leading to slower beverage turnaround times—and potentially frustrated customers.
Justin Barricks, the owner of 5th Street Grind in Lynchburg, Virginia, notes that customers sometimes express confusion or discontent when waiting for their tea orders. “No one wants to wait too long for tea,” he says. “Customers will see me making lattes and ask, ‘Hey, you remembered I ordered a tea, right?’ I then have to explain that it’s still steeping.”
On top of bar flow disruptions and long wait times, brewing tea opens the door to inconsistencies. Even with timers, detailed recipes, and documented brewing processes in place, something as simple as restocking inventory or having a conversation with a customer while a tea brews can lead to over-steeping, resulting in undesirable or bitter flavors in the cup.
At Intazza Coffee, a coffee and tea shop with locations in Murrieta and San Diego, California, baristas brewed large batches of cold tea and served tea drinks on tap. While this process meant large volumes of tea were always ready, the system relied on baristas having ample time to brew tea, which wasn’t always guaranteed at their high-volume shops.
Batching tea was risky, says Yaneli Gutierrez, Chief Operations Officer for Intazza Coffee. “Tea is a beverage that grows bacteria pretty quickly. We have to be brewing tea daily so we don’t have too much stock in the back. It can only be one or two days old before it has to be tossed out,” says Gutierrez.
No one wants to wait too long for tea. Customers will see me making lattes and ask, ‘Hey, you remembered I ordered a tea, right?’ I then have to explain that it’s still steeping. Justin Barricks, 5th street grind
Although tea may seem like a simple beverage, it can drastically disturb bar flow, cause drink inconsistencies, and draw the ire of customers as they wait for their beverages to steep. However, the continuous demand for tea and tea-based drinks left coffee shops searching for a streamlined brewing solution. With the introduction of its new Tea Shots product line, Maya Tea Company believes it has invented the remedy for tea’s bar flow woes.
Tea Service Innovation
After the success of his chai concentrate product, Manish Shah, owner of Maya Tea Company, saw an opportunity to remedy many of the bar flow and customer issues related to brewing tea—all while enhancing drink consistency and opening the door to new beverage possibilities.
“I was inspired by our chai concentrate product and seeing the success our customers were having with it,” says Shah. Maya Tea designed a concentrate that worked as a base for chai-based drinks with a 1:11 concentrate-to-water/milk ratio, and he wondered if he could bring that same model to other tea drinks. “People were asking how they can make tea without all the fuss, and we were like, ‘We already do that with chai. Let’s just do that with pure tea, too!'”
Maya Tea came up with Tea Shots, tea concentrates that can be used as the base of signature drinks or served simply with water as hot or cold tea. One ounce (one pump) of concentrate makes either a 12-ounce hot drink or a 16-ounce iced one, and you can pair the shots with water, dairy, or plant milk. Tea Shots are currently available in black, green, hibiscus, and yerba mate flavors.
Like his chai concentrate products, Shah explains that his desire to balance quality and consistency in tea drinks drove the creation of Tea Shots. Since Maya Tea Company does all its own milling (grinding), the company has total control over the production process, flavors, and quality control.
One of my customer’s daily ticket averages went from $2.45 for a small coffee to $7 for a customized tea drink. I have a profit margin of around 90% for customized tea drinks. Justin Barricks, 5th street grind
“Our knowledge of tea chemistry and how the leaves behave when steeped in large quantities aided in our unique ability to create Tea Shots products,” says Shah. “We also understand brewing chemistry and how to make our products shelf-stable. We mastered this process with our chai products and learned how to apply that to brewed tea.”
Tea Shots can drastically transform the typical tea-brewing process for cafés. “Our coffee shop is a very fast-paced location. We get a lot of people in here, and sometimes we get really slammed,” says Gutierrez. “For my staff, it’s a lot easier now because they don’t have to brew any tea. [The Tea Shots] are on the counter, and they can make drinks in seconds.”
Barricks echoes Gutierrez’s experiences, mentioning how the Tea Shots provide a convenient option for customers who want a simple cup of green or black tea. “Instead of waiting for tea to steep when you’ve got a long line of customers in the morning, you use a pump [of Tea Shots concentrate], water, and you’re done.”
Unlocking Creativity With Tea
Tea already offers cafés a far greater profit margin than coffee on a drink-by-drink basis, with tea beverage gross margins reaching upwards of 85% for hot tea and dispensed iced tea. The problem, Maya Tea claims, is that these higher per-drink margins are only accessible for a very small range of beverages with traditional tea bags and loose leaf, and thus a small number of customers who enjoy that particular experience.
With Tea Shots, cafes can experience “all the advantages of tea but with speed, consistency, and flexibility,” says Shah, making tea drinks—and the higher margins associated with them—accessible to more customers. Each Tea Shots bottle contains approximately 64 servings, allowing cafés to control costs without sacrificing flavor.
Beyond expediting tea-based orders and streamlining behind-the-bar brewing processes, Maya Tea’s Tea Shots offers cafés an opportunity to reimagine what tea beverages can be sold. Using Tea Shots as a base, cafés can expand and experiment with tea offerings, including tea lattes, carbonated tea sodas, boba made with tea concentrate, and more.
“Tea shots are a new mechanism for elevating the barista to a ‘mixologist’ role,” Shah says. “We provide the paint, but how they choose to paint the picture is up to them. Between the additional flexibility, speed, and consistency, Tea Shots allow for a more natural expression of a coffee shop’s creative tendencies.”
Barricks explains that custom tea drinks have increased ticket averages as well. “One of my customer’s daily ticket averages went from $2.45 for a small coffee to $7 for a customized tea drink. I have a profit margin of around 90% for customized tea drinks.” Barricks is taking a different approach to the creative nature of tea by allowing customers to make unique and personalized drink concoctions with Tea Shots. “That’s what I love about them—the customization,” he says.
At Intazza Coffee, the staff is actively experimenting with new drink recipes and planning to add tea-based beverages using Tea Shots. “Something we’re exploring is adding tea into blended drinks,” Gutierrez says. Currently, the shop uses the yerba mate and hibiscus Tea Shots to brew a yerba mate lemonade and strawberry hibiscus tea.
Tea Shots open the door for coffee shops to create tea beverages that meet the growing customer demand, add to the bottom line, and embrace flavor creativity without service disruptions. For Shah, it’s about pushing boundaries by making tea easier to serve: “It takes tea into a form that gives it greater flexibility than previously existed.”