Friday, November 7, 2008

bring your own

Tuesday in the Times' Diner's Journal, Frank Bruni posted about an incident in which his friend was instructed to trash his Starbucks coffee when he asked to be put on the list at a diner/coffee shop. Bruni mused on whether or not this was acceptable, although as usual, the most interesting and meaty discussion clearly erupts in the comments section. Some readers argued that the restaurant was in the right for a variety of reasons, ranging from liability to managing impressions. Others thought the hostess should have lightened up, let the man finish his coffee (or poured the man's coffee into a restaurant-issue mug and let him finish it), and chalked it up to good customer service. Probably there are defensible reasons to go either way, although I can't say I'd walk into anything remotely resembling a coffee shop holding a coffee from another place.*

On the other hand, I have a serious tea problem. Unlike some friends of mine, I'm not a fancy tea snob connoisseur, but I can be a little picky about my tea. I don't, for example, like drinking straight up Lipton. If I want something strong enough to make me antsy, I want it to have some flavor too, a nice Earl Gray or Prince of Wales. Most of the time I choose an herbal tea tisane (I think that's the correct term these days) because I like to have a hot beverage with dessert, and I'm just not that into coffee. NH has mocked me in the past for bringing my own tea bags, granny style, into a business. He thinks it's cheap. And while I argued against him at the time, because there is nothing so fun as arguing with NH over brunch on a sleepy Sunday morning, I think he's probably right. After all, the restaurant would actually make a couple of dollars if I ordered a tea.

In a perfect world, all decent restaurants would get a decent tea selection to match, or at least choose a house tea with some semblance of taste. Places with nice tea options stay in my mind vividly and for a long time, places like Blue Duck Tavern for one, or The Brampton Inn (by the way, I recommend that given the opportunity, you try dinner at Blue Duck Tavern or a night at the Brampton). This will never happen, not in the coffee-alarm-using, Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz eating US of A. A commenter on Bruni's piece had a nice suggestion, which I might use in the future. The mother of said commenter brings her own bag but orders hot tea at the table, swapping the restaurant's bland offering for something she prefers. The restaurant, in essence, charges for the tea service but the classy lady gets what she wants. This seems ideal, unless one takes a quick glance at the economics of it. The customer pays for the tea, then for the tea service. Assuming the restaurant reuses, rather than tosses, the offending tea bag, the restaurant profits. If one worries over troubling the waiter for hot water, why not just toss an extra dollar or so into the tip, rather than paying for hot tea, using one's own tea, and then tipping on the tea order? This is getting so complicated that it's entirely simple to see why I no longer order tea in restaurants very often. Also, I anticipate at least on person wondering whether the economics of tea is really a big deal. Well no, not at say, Bigelow from the grocery store prices. But if you purchase a nice tea, whether loose or bagged, prices can go up considerably.

I don't have this one worked out. I think I'm going to keep skipping after dinner beverages, or opting for an espresso once in a while. What would you do in my situation? Eat the extra cost to drink what you want? Bite the bullet and either order of the menu or order nothing?

* Actually, this is not entirely accurate. On occasion I have purchased a cup of tea or similar from Starbucks and, not finding a seat, have toted my beverage to another Starbucks location. I do not think this is morally reprehensible. If you disagree, leave it in the comments.

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

1 comment:

Colleen said...

I am a tea snob. Living in the South, where the only good tea is Southern Sweet Iced Tea, I often forego tea after dinner to go home and have a cup there. When visiting New York, my friend's are as bad as I am and we often do the same. If I notice the restaurant has good tea, like Twinings, Bigelow, Tazo, I will have a cup if my dinner companions are having coffee, otherwise water is fine. When staying at a hotel, I bring my own tea bags for morning tea. I have only once had my own tea bag with me in a restaurant, and I just asked for the hot water with lemon. No one said anything.

Good luck with NaBlPoMo.