Why Is Tea at Coffee Bars So Bad?

If you're a tea drinker in America, you've had this experience: You go to a café with a friend who orders an espresso drink. With a deadly serious expression, the barista carefully grinds and tamps, pumps the handle of his espresso machine with carefully calibrated tensile strength, and delivers the finished macchiato with the gravitas of an Oscar presenter. Then you step up and order tea, and the barista hands you a paper cup of hottish water and a dusty tea bag. For this you paid $2?

As it turns out, water from espresso machines is just not hot enough for tea. Coffee brews at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit; black tea should be brewed at around 210. According to customer service reps for makers of three espresso machines (Jura-Capresso, Illy, and Philips, current owner of Gaggia), hot water for tea ranges in temperature from about 170 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit—that's just hot enough to make a brown-colored cup of tepid water, not a decent cup of tea. And even if the water hits the cup at 190 degrees, by the time you've got your tea bag unwrapped and dropped, the water's barely capable of extracting flavor.

It's time for coffee bars to invest in something that can make proper tea. Every café in England has a $20 electric kettle that serves the purpose beautifully, keeping water piping hot all day long. The Jura-Capresso customer service rep recommends the company's $80 H20 Pro Kettle for heavy users: It holds 56 ounces of water at temperatures up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit for as long as you keep the thing plugged in. As a tea lover, I would happily pay espresso-drink prices for a cup of well-made tea. And if any baristas are reading this? Make it for me behind the counter, as I sit and wait like a princess, and I'll tip you like crazy.

Image source: Flickr member Hatters! under Creative Commons