We have suffered too long with poor service and terrible tea.
On Saturday the 4th of March, 2012, I and some close friends had decided to view “Sculptures By The Sea,” an annual event of high quality on Perth’s premier post-card beach, Cottesloe. We had also decided to end the perfect morning by having a breakfast at a rather popular, and expensive, cafe in this rather exclusive suburb by the sea, the John Street Cafe.
Even by 8am, there was a cue of barristers, pediatricians and venture capitalists (both Alan Bond and Gina Rinehart live, in all senses of the term, around the corner.) After a short wait a table for 5 became available. The setting was beautiful, the menu options a little restricted and, let’s be honest, pricey.
To begin with, we were asked by an extremely pleasant waitress for our drinks order. My friends drink coffee – I don’t judge them. I, of course, think most coffee is over-rated and prefer the subtly of tea, and sensed the judgement rain down.
The menu didn’t list any particular tea, it simply stated “A selection of teas.” That’s not unusual these days, so I asked. My heart sank with the reply: “Earl Grey, English Breakfast, peppermint…” I didn’t want to make a fuss, but as anyone knows, two black teas does not a selection make. Certainly two of the most abused labels in the history of tea are not part of “a selection.” This is rather like China’s one party system being called “a selection” of democracy. Valiantly and in the face of adversity, I fought on: “Earl Grey, please. White.”
Admittedly it was a pleasant surprise when the service arrived. The cup was warmed; the pot, despite being a horrible stainless steel number, was hot; the strainer clean; and the milk jug chilled. Sadly, no pot of hot water however above average marks for effort.
A small sample was poured to check for colour: almost none. “Good,” I thought, “they assembled it all first and did the pot last.” Wrong! It was not going to get any stronger. After some remarks to my friends, we all had a look inside the pot. We could count the leaves on one hand. The poor, anemic brew had steeped as much as it could. So a hand shot up for some service.
After an initial misunderstanding (the poor waitress thought I had meant the tea was too strong!) it was taken back. A new, at least I hoped, pot arrived.
The colour was better, so feeling confident I poured, added milk, drank and almost spat the vile liquid over everyone. Whatever it was, it wasn’t Earl Grey. Nor English Breakfast. It tasted like detergent. No, worse, it tasted like poisoned detergent.
Normally in these situations, I’d recoil to the familiar and comfortable, doing what most reasonable and polite people do: passive aggressiveness. This would have been an easy option, as I wasn’t paying for the meal. However this abomination could not be laid to rest, someone somewhere ought to know that we tea drinkers are sick and tired of being treated like an untouchable’s untouchable. I decided to stand up (not literally) and take a stand: tea so horrible should never be served at the John Street Cafe ever again!
Having told the waitress when she cleared the table, she was a little taken aback, and not quite sure what to do. “Um, I’ll inform the boss, I guess.” By this stage I was thinking how handy it was to be in a cafe full of wealthy barristers with much Saturday morning time on their hands.
To their credit, the cafe did not bill for the tea, thus not being an additional $6.50 insult to my intelligence. Rather, of my friend who footed the bill. Yet I continued to wonder how a process so simple can be deviated from so catastrophically that the resultant effluent made sewage seem potable. What had I done to the universe to deserve such an obnoxious punishment?
Maybe it’s unfair to name-and-shame (“shaname”) a specific cafe for one pot when it’s really hard to find a barista anywhere that knows how to make a tea. Too bad. How can professional people put the face of Jesus on a flat white coffee but don’t know that it’s one for the teapot? Worst of all crimes, why are they charging the national debt of a failing African state for what is essentially a small pot of freshly boiled water with a measured amount of malted herb, in a process so simple a small child can do it?
Unless we demand a higher standard they won’t get better. My stand began last Saturday.