How Exactly Can Hotels and Restaurants Achieve the Optimal Teatime?

Tea has always been a craft, but for centuries the West viewed it primarily as a commodity. Attitudes are shifting now as more and more tea professionals, enthusiasts and consumers are interested in the fine details about their tea and its origins. They are recognizing what differentiates a good tea from an average (or bad) one.

Hotels and restaurants, of course, can provide a better experience for their guests by serving those higher-quality tea products. If they have the means, they can even curate a full tea program that makes tea a centerpiece of the dining experience. It’s a win-win: Not only will guests enjoy the unique pleasures of teatime, but also, tea service can become a lucrative business.

But how exactly can hotels and restaurants achieve the optimal teatime? Two certified sommeliers will tell you.

Gabrielle Jammal: Building a Luxury Tea Program from Scratch

Gabrielle Jammal is a tea sommelier certified by the UK Tea Academy and ITMA, with specializations in hospitality, afternoon tea, pairings and holistic health. In the years just before the pandemic, she developed and operated the tea program at the Baccarat Hotel in Manhattan.

Jammal already had a background in tea, and after the hotel invited her to work with them, she pursued her sommelier certifications. She joined their staff as the food and beverage manager and started designing an afternoon tea experience that she explained was “magical.”

The hotel had no precedent for afternoon tea at the time. Jammal described her experience like laying down a path brick by brick and wondering how to best proceed at each step.“It’s one thing to say, ‘Wouldn’t this be awesome?’ but it’s another thing to make it happen,” Jammal said.

“By the grace of my team and fate… I was able to make it happen.”

Though Jammal no longer works at the hotel, the tea program she created continues. Each service is themed with a famous historical leader, such as the Prince of Wales or Queen Isabella II. Jammal researched what was special about each leader and how they related to the Baccarat brand, then designed menus around those ideas. Loose leaf tea options are presented like a wine list and paired with various sweet and savory plates. The selections change seasonally.

Jammal trained the service staff on best practices for tea service, but certain tea companies also provide this sort of B2B training when there isn’t a tea sommelier in-house — including In Pursuit of Tea, one of the companies Jammal has often partnered with.

Hotels - Afternoon Tea - Tea Sommeliers
Gabrielle Jammal developed the afternoon tea program at the Baccarat Hotel, which allows guests to choose from a selection of sweet and savory dishes, as well as teas from a menu presented like a wine list.
  (Photo: Courtesy of Baccarat Hotel - New York)

“I think tea touches people in such a way that [servers] get excited talking about it, and then they can share that with the guest as well,” Jammal said.

Linda Gaylard: Making Teatime Accessible for Restaurants

If a restaurant doesn’t have the capacity to hire a sommelier or consultant in-house or long-term, there still are things they can do to improve their usual tea service.

Linda Gaylard is a tea sommelier certified by the Tea & Herbal Association of Canada. She's also the author of The Tea Book.

Restaurant Tea Programs - Tea Sommeliers - Linda Gaylard
Linda Gaylard, a certified tea sommelier
  (Photo: Courtesy of Linda Gaylard)

“I’ve always had this sort of fascination with the romance of tea,” Gaylard said. “Before I knew anything about the leaf, I liked the idea that tea was such a comforting, cozy pastime.”

In her 12 years working as a tea sommelier, Gaylard has consulted for certain restaurants whose staff are either intimidated by the unfamiliarity of tea or don’t see the value in it at first. One challenge: Excellent tea service requires training, and at mid-level or more casual restaurants, there is usually too much turnover of staff to retain that knowledge. There would be a constant need to train new staff on tea service, and that isn’t practical for many restaurants.

But something like swapping out commodity black tea in paper tea bags for a selection of higher-quality teas in pyramid tea sachets is an easy upgrade. With an electric kettle that allows variable temperatures, tea can be served at the temperature that is just right, alongside a small ceramic teapot and hourglass timer. These small changes can make a big difference for the guest’s experience, especially if they are already a tea enthusiast.

“That’s not a difficult thing for service staff to learn,” Gaylard said.

Gaylard sees a lot of opportunity in the typical lull that many restaurants experience around 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., between lunch and dinner. This is also the perfect time for afternoon tea. Any of the restaurant’s usual dishes could be miniaturized for teatime to alleviate the need for developing a new menu. If it’s too overwhelming to envision daily afternoon tea service, perhaps a restaurant could experiment with it as a one-time popup event or offer it only on certain days of the week, Gaylard suggested.

“They’ve got the venue; they’ve got the equipment. They have everything that’s needed to have a good tea experience. They just feel a little bit shy about it, or they feel that it’s not practical for them,” Gaylard said. “But I think a person like myself or other sommeliers that have been trained to ease the process… can show them some tips and tricks to bring a better tea experience to their patrons.”

Cat Kerr has been involved with local cafes in Orlando, Fla., as a public relations manager and barista since 2018. She writes about food, tea and culture. She’s also a contributor to Questex’s World Tea News and Bar & Restaurant.

Plan to Attend or Participate in the
World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023

To learn about other key developments, trends, issues, hot topics and products within the global tea community, plan to attend the World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023 in Las Vegas, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at the World Tea Conference + Expo, or to enquire about advertising and sponsorship opportunities at World Tea News, contact:

Ellainy Karaboitis-Christopoulos
Business Development Manager, Questex
Phone: +1-212-895-8493
Email: [email protected]

Also, be sure to stay connected with the World Tea Conference + Expo on social media for details and insights about the event. Follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.