What Type of Tea Should You Serve at a Catering Event?
Serving tea at a catering event is a delicate process. Many things have to be considered before the actual day of the party, and all these matters should be taken into account with the utmost care.
Ways to Serve Tea at a Catering Event
Depending on the guests, tea can be served in various ways:
Brewed - The most common form in which tea is served. The tea is either poured from a teapot into stemmed cups, or it may be brewed directly in the cup with hot water added, then removed after it has steeped for an appropriate amount of time.
Teabags - Teabags are single-use paper containers filled with pre-mixed (and often low quality) tea leaves and sealed with a staple. The teabags are then placed in a cup of hot water to steep, and after drinking the contents of the bag, it is discarded without any further thought or care.
Loose-leaf - Loose leaf teas require preparation before being served. Tea leaves are brewed using a tea infuser in a cup or pot of heated water. The tea leaves are either suspended in the water or held in a filter, allowing for them to be removed after steeping.
Brewed tea is the easiest choice and probably preferred by most people. However, if you know the guests are real tea-lovers and like to spend some time making their own tea, you might want to use teabags or loose-leaf teas.
Types of Teas
Many types of tea can be served, the most common ones are rooibos tea, white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, and herbal tea. They are all made from leaves of the tea plant but are processed differently. Some may not even be considered tea if they contain too many additives.
Knowing which type or a blend of tea to serve is key to making a good first impression on your guests:
Originating from South Africa, rooibos tea became one of the most popular types of tea.
Tea leaves are fermented, which gives, which give a unique color and taste to rooibos tea. Even though the fresh leaves contain vitamin C, it is lost while processing the leaves.
Besides its great taste, the tea contains no caffeine and only small amounts of tannins. These characteristics make rooibos tea a popular choice when hosting events.
These leaves are harvested when young, before being exposed to sunlight which produces chlorophyll in the leaf. This makes the resulting beverage pale in color and mild in taste with little caffeine content.
White tea is sweet and rarely bitter. It is said to aid metabolism, help with weight loss, and also assist with skincare.
It's a great choice for catering events.
Green tea goes through minimal processing before being harvested, which preserves its antioxidants that are thought to aid bodily systems in fighting disease.
These leaves are not oxidized at all, so the resulting beverage is pale yellow in color and mild in taste with little caffeine content.
Its slight buttery flavor to it would make it a great choice for a catering event, however, it contains some caffeine, which might be a no-no for some guests.
Oolong tea is harvested like white tea but is exposed to more sunlight than white tea, so the leaves turn green and become partially oxidized. They are sometimes called half-fermented tea leaves. This makes for a beverage that is brown in color and has a woodsy taste with low caffeine content.
After being harvested and fully cured, these tea leaves are dried and oxidized. This transforms the leaf and turns it black in color and produces a beverage that is colored dark red with a stronger flavor than white tea or other teas.
Please keep in mind, that black tea has the highest caffeine content of all types. If you know your guests are fine with that, black tea can be a great choice.
Made from infusions of flowers, fruit, leaves, or other plant material that are steeped in hot water to extract their taste.
While herbal teas might be great at soothing various health problems, they are probably not a good choice to serve at catering events, as they might trigger side effects in some people.
Be sure to know your audience (and the herbs) well if you're considering this option.
What Else Should Be On the Table?
Many people like to add lemon, sugar, or other accompaniments to their tea. Others prefer to eat sweets or sandwiches while drinking tea. The more options your guests have, the happier they will be.
Accompaniments: Most common accompaniments are lemon, milk, sugar, honey, and artificial sweeteners. Your best bet is to make all of these readily available for your guest.
Food: Scones - both sweet and savory - are commonly served together with tea. Finger sandwiches – e.g. egg salad, small sandwiches with smoked salmon, ham, roast beef - are also often part of the menu.
Sweets and desserts: Cookies, cream puffs, shortbreads, macarons, etc. There is a wide variety of choices. Try to serve at least 3-4 types, the more the better.
Other Factors to Consider
The type or types of tea to serve at a catering event is not as easy as selecting the brand. There are some other variables that can affect your choice:
Time of day: types with relatively high caffeine content (mainly black and green tea) are not suitable for events in the afternoon or evening as they can adversely affect sleep.
Health implications: Herbal teas might trigger side effects or cause unexpected drug interactions. Caffeine-rich teas are more likely to trigger heartburn. You might want to steer clear of these types or let the audience know that the tea contains herbs or caffeine.
So, what type of tea should you serve?
The better you know the guests, the easier it is to select the right type(s) of tea.
Considering all factors, probably brewed rooibos or white teas are the safest choices. Most people like their taste and they are unlikely to cause any sleeping or health issues.
For breakfast catering or morning meetings, green and black tea might be great. If the audience is all about healthy eating, even herbal teas might be served.
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