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Membership of the prestigious Tea Guild is strictly by invitation only and when a tea outlet is interested in becoming a member they are made aware of the criteria and standards expected and subsequently visited by an incognito tea Inspector who checks them out. If the establishment then meets our standards they are invited to become a member and upon payment of our annual membership fee can enjoy the many benefits and advantages that membership brings.
Applications for Tea Guild membership can either be made on-line, by telephone on 01483 750599, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To ensure that the criteria for membership set by The Tea Guild meets our high standards, the establishment must then pass an initial inspection by acknowledged, and always, incognito Tea Industry Inspectors. Following a successful inspection and payment of our annual Tea Guild membership fee, the outlet is invited to become a member and The Tea Guild maintains a watching brief throughout the year to ensure that standards of excellence are maintained.
Beyond exacting standards of hygiene, our inspectors also look out for tables, chairs and floors being kept clean with no crumbs or spillages on them. Tables should be cleared of used china and cutlery, cleaned and properly set with fresh china, cutlery, napkins and menus before the next customers are seated. Stains on menus, teacloths, dust on decorations, stained crockery and cutlery, untidy staff and generally anything that may be distasteful to a paying customer is simply not acceptable.
Toilets must be well maintained, fresh, clean and nicely decorated. They should be inspected by staff regularly throughout the day to ensure cleanliness, tidiness and plentiful hot water, toilet paper, good soap and hand drying facilities are available.
Flooring must be in good condition with no worn and dangerous areas. Tables and all styles of seating should be clean, steady and in good condition. Table linen must be clean and ironed. Walls must be in good repair with no torn wallpaper or flaking paint and decor should be maintained to a fresh and attractive standard.
Pottery or hina in good condition is expected, our eagle-eyed tasters will spot cracks, chips or stains on the crockery! The crockery should link with the overall style and atmosphere of the venue but does not necessarily have to match. China and cutlery should be of the appropriate size and "dinner service" sized cutlery is far too large and ungainly for Afternoon Tea use and is particularly awkward for customers to handle.
Metal milk and water jugs are not favoured. Silver or porcelain is preferred.
Staff should be friendly, attentive and well presented and staff should be welcoming with guests being acknowledged and greeted with a smile both on arrival and departure. Staff should be knowledgeable and able to advise on the teas and foods offered on the menu. Staff should enjoy regular tea and afternoon tea training. Knowledge of the different varieties of teas on offer will score extra points with guests.
In venues where guests are often required to book afternoon tea in advance it is of huge importance that they are greeted and advised in a friendly and helpful manner when making their reservation. Guests should also be asked whether they have any dietary requests.
Service should be efficient and attentive with orders being taken and delivered in a reasonable amount of time. The customer must always be the main priority and staff should check regularly that the customer has sufficient tea, hot water and milk etc and that everything is to their satisfaction.
When guests order a full afternoon tea menu staff should explain precisely what the menu comprises of, the varieties and quantities of food included and the order in which the afternoon tea will be served. This is particularly important and saves embarassment where guests, being presented with a tiered afternoon tea stand, might be unfamiliar with the afternoon tea concept and may be unsure of the order of service and the order in which it should be eaten.
All sugar should be presented in an attractive dish and covered in order to avoid the sugar being "played with". Tongsand teaspoons must be offered to avoid this unhygienic habit.
Fresh, tasty home-baked foods are looked for, a wide selection on offer, served attractively and stored hygienically. Crustledd fresh bread is far more appealing and suitable for afternoon tea.Many guests prefer their scones served warm so staff should ask the guests preference and if this is the case ensure that scones are kept warm and only served at the appropriate time when guests have finished eating savoury items.
Fresh crockery should be offered after savoury items and before scones with jams and cream are served. Most top venues will also replace the crockery again before the cakes and pastries are served.
All food should be stored hygienically and attractively presented.
Should the guest be unable to complete the afternoon tea menu offer to bag or box it up for them to take away and enjoy later.
Teas should be listed on your menu and should be fully described as to each varieties strength and flavour in the same style as a wine menu. Try to include as many speciality teas as possible.
Offer your guests a good selection of tea varieties from different producer nations and leave the guest sufficient time to peruse the tea menu and staff should be well trained and able to offer good advice on tea choice after enquiring whether a robust and flavoursome or more delicate tea is preferred. Staff should not just offer "house blend" tea when many other interesting and exciting teas are available - this can be rather boring for the guest and is a lazy way of tea service
Sweetener, sugar, cold milk (usually semi skimmed or skimmed is preferred) lemon and additional hot water should always be available. Some teas such as green/oolong and white do not require milk and staff should be capable of recommending andadvising on this whilst also recognising that some guests may prefer to add milk and sugar and should never be made to feel uncomfortable by so doing.
Remember that the perfect and most enjoyable cup of tea is a very individual preference!
Fresh cups and saucers should be presented when a fresh pot of tea or a different tea variety is served.
Tea strainers are not always required as the tea may, for example, be brewed in the kitchen or pantry and removed before being brought to the table. Some teapot styles have an infuser basket or plunger system which means that the leaves are separated from the liquor. If, however, tea strainers are required then a little dish or other attractive receptacle should be provided for EACH guests use.
When tea is being served the guest should be told how long the tea should optimally brew for for maximum enjoyment and exactly how long the tea has been brewing for BEFORE pouring the tea. It should be recognised that some people will prefer less robust or more robust tea and may prefer their tea to be poured slightly earlier or later than the recommended time and solicitous service will acertain this. NEVER pour the tea before giving and requesting this information as there is nothing to be done if a guest is presented with a cup of weak or too strong tea.
Afternoon tea should be treated as an 'experience', therefore you should offer your customers a relaxing, interesting and enjoyable environment in which to enjoy it. Guests should feel "well looked after" and comfortable in their surroundings no matter whether in a cottage tearoom or a luxury hotel. If so, they will return!
Value for money is very subjective but taking into account the locality and style of venue the prices should reflect the quality and quantity of the goods purchased.
Tea Guild Inspectors are all recognised tea experts with many years of experience and seniority in the business and world of tea and give marks for the following tea criteria:
Pots made from certain materials are not suitable for the successful brewing of tea. These are aluminium, pewter, enamel, uncoated iron and plastic. They may taint the tea or emit undesirable substances into the infusion.
The best teapots are made from porcelain, bone china, glazed stoneware, unglazed Chinese red earthenware, silver and glass. These lose heat slowly from the outside and maintain a good temperature inside. When the visual effect of the brewing of the leaves and the colour of the liquor is required, glass is excellent.
The size and shape of the teapot is very important. It is essential that the correct amount of tea and water are used in each pot and that the leaves have enough room to move around in order to absorb water and release their colour and flavour into the water.
There is no doubt that porcelain and bone china make the best teacups. They keep the tea hot, they are more elegant and they are easy to lift.
But depending on the style and theme of a teashop, different materials may be used. However, the heavy stoneware and pottery often used for catering tablewares allow the tea to cool more quickly than porcelain and bone china and are generally less acceptable to most people.
The shape of cups is also important. A wide top allows the tea to cool faster while taller, narrower shapes are excellent for piping the aroma of the tea. This is important with some of the fine China green and oolong teas.
For traditional British tea drinking, cups and saucers are best. For oriental teas (oolongs and green teas from China and Japan) little bowls or tall straight-sided cups with no handles are culturally correct and add an interesting and colourful element to the tea drinking experience.
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