Two scruffy bespectacled bohemian guys come through the door. Pausing at the hostess stand they look around, exchange a few words, shrug, and deign to grace us with their presence. They look like pains in the asses.
Of course they’re seated in my section.
“Good evening gentleman. May I get you something from the bar? A glass of wine or a cocktail?” I ask in greeting.
“We’ll have tea,” the thinner of the two sniffs.
Oh great. Tea for an aperitif. I’ve got the last of the big time spenders.
“Do you have lapsang souchong?” the fat one inquires, his lower lip trembling.
“I’m afraid we don’t but we have a nice selection of other teas. I’ll bring the tea box.”
“Mmmmm, no lapsang,” Fatty murmurs sadly.
“Just fetch the tea box,” Thin orders.
Fetch? I think about emitting a little bark but think the better of it.
Now, any waiter will tell you that serving tea is a monumental pain in the ass. Unlike coffee, tea requires about a dozen accoutrements for its preparation and presentation. First you have to lug out a tea box the size of a cigar humidor, stand around while the patron agonizes over the selection, run back to the kitchen, steep the cup in hot water, assemble saucer, spoon, biscotti, lemon, milk /cream, lemon wedge, sugar bowl (which better have every cancer causing brain cell killing artificial sweetener ever cooked up in a lab), a miniature teapot of scalding water, and, finally, honey. God forbid you forget a single thing.
Imagine doing that for five different tables at the same time and you get a taste of my pain.
I deliver the tea humidor to the Bohemians. There are about a hundred tea packets in the box. They flip through every single one. After what seems like an eternity Fatty pulls out four herbal teas and a bag of Lipton. Thin draws out five herbals and a decaf Lipton. I stand there in confusion. How much tea are they going to drink?
“Well aren’t you going to get us some hot water?” Thin huffs impatiently.
“Sorry sir,” I say, beating a retreat to the kitchen.
When I return, tray laden with supplies, I notice there are only two bags of Lipton tea on the table. The other nine tea bags have vanished.
Steeping their tea they place their order. Two house salads and the cheapest bowl of pasta we have – split for two.
“Can I have more bread?” Fatty asks hopefully.
“Of course sir.”
I go to the computer and place the order.
“Hey Maria,” I ask the busgirl, “Did you take any tea bags off of table twenty-six?”
“No,” she replies, “Why?”
“Forget it,” I murmur, “Just bring them some more bread please.”
Two hours elapse. The men eat their salads and entrees while polishing off four baskets of bread. Plates cleared I go to the table.
“Would you gentleman care for some dessert?” I ask warily.
“More hot water,” Thin says without looking up.
“Very good sir.”
I bring two fresh pots of hot water. The men recycle their cold Lipton bags. The other teas are nowhere to be seen.
I’m steaming. “Ok motherfuckers,” I think to myself, ‘You wanna play? Let’s play.”
After another half hour the Bohemians signal for the check. I happily ring it up.
2 House Salads $ 0.00
1 Penne Pomodoro $ 11.95
Split Charge $ 1.00
2 Regular Teas $ 3.00
9 Herbal Teas $ 22.50
Total (Pre tax) $ 38.45
I drop off the bill with a friendly, “Thank you very much gentleman.”
Thin examines the bill. He looks like he discovered someone put sand in his Vaseline.
“Waiter, come here.” he yelps.
“Why are you charging us $25 for tea? We only had two!”
“But you gentleman took nine herbal teas and they’re $2.50 each.”
“We gave them back,” Thin argues. Liar
“No sir, you didn’t,” I reply, putting some steel in my voice.
“Well, we’re not paying for it.”
I look away from Thin and fix my gaze at a point on some imaginary horizon. After a long pause I say softly,
“I would hate to involve the police in this conversation.”
I look back down. Fatty’s lip is trembling in overdrive.
Thin looks at me venomously. He’s probably pulled this shit a million times and gotten away with it. Not tonight. He’s come face to face with the Tea Nazi.
The men pull the tea packets out of their pockets and place them on the table.
“Happy now?” Thin snorts.
“Thank you sir.”
I readjust the check, process the credit card, and hand the check back to Thin. He writes a prominent zero in the tip section.
“Very generous sir,” I deadpan.
“We are never coming back here,” Thin sputters looking at Fatty, “Are we?”
Fatty just nods.
“Good.” I reply simply.
Thin looks positively livid.
“And we are telling all our friends not to come here either,”
“If they’re anything like you we don’t want them here either,” I reply in a dead even voice.
“Fuck you,” Thin hisses. He jumps from his seat and barrels out the door.
Fatty, who can’t move as fast, is still in his seat.
“I’m sorry,” he says in a small voice. He looks terrified.
I look at Fatty. I feel sorry for him. Something tells me Thin is the only friend he has.
Fatty pulls out $5 and hands it to me.
“I’m sorry,” he repeats.
I purse my lips and think for a moment. I put my hand on Fatty’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry too.”
Fatty gets up and shuffles out the door.
Walking back to the kitchen I hand the busgirl the $5 bill.
“What’s that for?” she asks.
“Don’t worry about it.”
I don’t feel victorious. Just sad. All this over tea.
Fatty’s trembling face will haunt me for the rest of the night
I think it’s great that the “Tea Hating” is universal.
I myself have a funny story. My best friend who is also a server came into the restaurant that we both work in one nite with a married couple, friends of his, they sat in my station, had a lovely meal, we were getting ready for dessert and I saked the couple if they would like cappacino or coffe, and they both pipe up and say “We’ll have hot tea”, well, needless to say my friend and I both burst into laughter at which the nice young couple were looking at us like “What!!”, we just said oh, it’s an inside thing and I brought out the box and all that goes with it. Hot Tea is just the worst!!!
Well, this is perspective on tea have I never even considered. On the other hand i think the margin on tea in a pricey restaurant is good enough to warrant its place in the drinks list. Anyway, after reading this, I doubt I will ever ask for a tea in my favorite place. Even when I mostly tip in a way you would positively liked, Waiter 🙂
I work in a restaurant in South Florida. Without exception, everyone I work with HATES tea orders. The one thing that confounds me is this: picture the patio of a restaurant at lunch in July. Full sun. Hot, Floridian sun. It’s a solid 99 degrees with the humidity nearly as high. Then the blue-haired old ladies come in on a bus from their “communities” and sit on the patio. Wearing sweaters. And they all order hot tea.
Serving hot tea is a royal pain, no doubt. But when I did wait tables, I took some satisfaction that I served it as well as possible. Lucky me, I only had to bring double-heated pot, double-heated (empty) cup, saucer, spoon, 2oz pitcher of milk, lemon, and teabag. No choices at the booze-free family restaurant where I worked.
Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.
Damm… Never become a waiter in england then 🙂
We Like our tea too much for you, that said i rarely order tea in US, you do tend to do very strange things to it, coffee’s not bad though
I don’t drink coffee so I try to make it as simple as possible. When I order a cup of tea I accentuate it from the start:
“Lipton, milk, sugar.”
I figure (at least I hope) that saves a lot of aggrivation.
Neither I, nor any of my family drink coffee. We drink tea. I will not apologize for ordering something on the menu, although I may tip a bit more next time I get tea, and am paying (usually if I’m at a place where I’m getting tea, I’m with my father, and he pays… I’m still in college, I’ll get a free meal where I can). Please don’t hate on us tea drinkers, some of us truly can’t stand coffee, and still want a hot drink- and my father is diabetic and doesn’t like diet sodas. There’s lots of legit reasons for tea drinking.
Of course, I’ve never ordered tea in a resteraunt with a tea humidor, or that many accoutrements to go along with it… I don’t think I’ve ever had milk/cream put on the table, and the sugar thing is already there! Maybe I just don’t go to nice enough places… someday, when I have the money… and I’ll order something other than tea there.
I worked in a very ‘upscale lounge’ where every freakin Friday night the same customers would order ‘full tea’ while I was trying to bartend. The time it takes to bring tea to four people could easily be spent bringing real drinks to 30 other customers! Damn that milk, cream, lemon, four kinds of sweetener!!!
I appreciate that it takes a lot of guts to stand your ground like that. I honestly don’t know if I could have done it. I guess I don’t have the confidence.
I occasionally order hot tea when at a restaurant. I always ask if they have herbal and then tell the waiter that I’ll take whatever they happen to have, that I’m not picky. I also decline all additional pieces in advance, since I’m ordering the tea because I need a hot beverage (have a cold, it is cold, etc.).
I didn’t realize that it was such a pain for folks. I’m just as happy to get a tea bag surprise plunked into a mug of hot water as having to pour the hot water from one container to another, myself.
Then again, I don’t eat out much.
This is weird – I mean, I drink tea but I never expect it to come with all the accoutrements you mention. Apart from anything else, if they are having milk, they DON’T need lemon and vice versa. Honey should be on a request-only basis. In Australia (and the UK) when you order tea, it usually just comes with milk and sugar. And I always tell them not to bother with either. Tea isn’t tea when it’s mixed with all that stuff.
I work at a Chinese chain. We have 6 awesome hot teas. None are normal. If i could count how many times someone has gone off on me for us not having plain black Lipton, I’d be here all night counting.
The worst is the cast iron teapots. Those bitches are heavy. we have teapot, trivet, teacup(s), sugar caddy on request, honey on request. It gets real hellish when 5 people order 5 different flavors. That requires 3 separate trips to get all that heavy shit to the table, or you have to pay more than the tea’s worth to a backwaiter to carry it.
I don’t mind the tea orders, but for God’s sake, read the damn menu! It lists our teas. Don’t give me grief for the all-fruity flavors, since I don’t make the menu. Don’t order a bunch of different varieties, please, but if you must, then don’t give me grief when it takes forever to get it all out, nor when I have to ignore you a bit to get out of the weeds you just put me in.
Tea is indeed a royal pain in the ass.
I Fucking HATE serving hot tea!!! It’s the worst, whenever someone says “I’ll have hot tea” I just cringe. OK, OK, it’s not that bad. It’s just very tedious. You have get a small round plate, a diolie, a teapot, a cup, tea, lemon, and a spoon. God forbid, if you have Herbal teas too.
“I look away from Thin and fix my gaze at a point on some imaginary horizon. After a long pause I say softly,
“I would hate to involve the police in this conversation.”
I look back down. Fatty’s lip is trembling in overdrive.”
… pro,waiter. Pro.
Aw. Poor guy.
I hated serving hot tea so much it’s not even funny. It was always annoying old ladies who ordered it too, and of course they browsed through the selections at a glacial pace. *sigh* I do NOT miss that.
Hot tea, is there any other kind?
Boy howdy, sounds like Thin Bohemian needs a serious smack upside the head with a Clue-By-Four.
I feel bad for his companion…at least the dude had the decency to try to slip you $5. Somehow, I think Thin Bohemian treats his companion even worse than he apparently treats waitstaff.
Sigh. People suck.
The irony is, I’m drinking hot tea right now. I think I’ll skip it in restaurants from now on…
Hot tea, iced tea, and coffee were all free at my previous job. So the amount of extra work we did for those orders was almost never rewarded. It’s especially difficult with large tables because you can only fit so many things on our trays! The huge tea box, plate with doily and tea pot, lemon, sugar, and empty coffee cup… Plus any other coffee orders the table has… Not fun at all!
And this is why I love being in the UK in English restaurants admittedly…
You ask for a tea, you get:
The teapot (or mug if it’s a cafe/pub), the cup (strike that if cafe/pub), milk and sugar.
Where I work, I usually ask if they want a pot or a mug and 99% of my customers don’t know what to make of that! (Then again, I don’t get tips… the company I work for doesn’t allow me to take them cheap gits).
Coffee’s are more complicated if only because of the latte/mocha/espresso/etc varieties where you have to get the milk just so.
I feel for all the Americans who have to go through such a rigmarole. Having said that, my only trip to America led me to one conclusion.
Bring my own teabags. I’m not a fan of the American tea.