Restaurants & Refills - Tea vs Coffee

Maybe this is just a US thing, but why is it that in so many eating places coffee refills are provided for free, but unless you politely insist they will only refill a tea drinkers cup with water? Or sometimes they’ll provide a second tea bag but charge for it. Is there some underlying economic reason?

Filtered coffee, as drunk in the US, can sit around on a hotplate slowly stewing, and you can provide a refill simply by picking up the jug and pouring. Whereas tea has to be made freshly with just-boiled water, and is a bit more labour-intensive. Could that have anything to do with it?

Having said that, Chinese restaurants typically do provide endless fresh pots of green tea, so it can be done.

Can’t a tea bag be used for three cups (or more) of hot tea? If you expect a new new tea bag for each cup, I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted to charge you.

What kind of restaurants do you eat at?

In the US, when you order tea at a typical restaurant, they bring you a tiny pot of hot(ish) water, a cup, and a wrapped tea bag. You tear open the tea bag wrapper, insert the bag into the water, and leave it there as long as you like.

OK, this is not likely to make very good tea, since the water will have come well off the boil before the tea is added, and the tea won’t infuse well.

In my experience (in Ireland) they serve tea by pouring boiling water onto tea (usually a teabag, but tealeaves in the fancier joints) in a pot, and then they bring you that along with a cup and milk/sugar. You wait until the tea has infused to the strength you like before you pour it, and then add milk/sugar to taste.

In some places - again, more likely to be the fancier joints - they’ll also bring a second pot or a jug containing hot water. The idea is that, if you want a second cup of tea, the tea will have infused longer and will be stronger, and the extra hot water is for diluting the tea in that eventuality. Or some people prefer to add the extra hot water to the pot immediately after pouring the first cup, though tea afficionados frown on this.

If you want still more tea, you order a second pot and expect to be charged for it.

(There’s an alternative practice, which involves putting a tea bag in a cardboard cup, adding boiling water and (if ordered) milk and/or sugar, sticking a plastic lid on the top and giving it to the customer to take away. Obviously, questions of refills don’t arise.)

Moved to Cafe Society.

General Questions Moderator

From my experience, you get a small basket featuring several varieties of tea and as many refills of hot water as you want for one price. However, these are usually at restaurants that only serve breakfast and lunch.

Because everytime a tea drinker says, “WELL! I’m never coming to THIS place again!” restaurant staff all high five one another and celebrate with restored faith that tomorrow will be a better day.

In my experience, after the first cup is brewed, reusing the tea bag yields a weak and/or bitter second cup. However, a single bag seems to work fine in a small pot with twice the water needed for a single cup - I’ll just let it sit a bit longer.

Maybe it’s all in my head, but I can’t reuse a tea bag.

I blame BigT.

Hmm. Here the waitress comes around with two pitchers and asks “Sweet or unsweet?”

Hot tea? That’s what you have when you’re sick, isn’t it?

Yup. There’s no problem getting your tea refilled in Texas. As long as it’s iced. Sweet tea is a new option here–think it came from the Deeper South.

If you want a hot drink, stick with the coffee. Most US restaurants just don’t do good tea.

Deeper south than Houston? Where is that - Laredo?

It’s probably entirely a reflection of what their clientele drinks a lot of, and what they’re prepared to serve.

For example, here in Texas as a 43 year old, I have yet in my life to find a restaurant that doesn’t provide free iced tea refills. Most also will do free coffee refills, although that’s something you’ll mostly only see in practice at breakfast places or places frequented by a lot of old geezers.

If you order hot tea in most places, you’re getting a tea-bag of Lipton in a coffee cup with hot water. It’s just not very common, and most places probably don’t even realize that they can just re-infuse the tea leaves a few times, so they charge you for another tea bag each time.

Most Asian places will do hot tea by the cup or pot; I think they will do either free refills on the cup, or they’ll re-infuse the same tea leaves in your pot for free (i.e. add more hot water).

It doesn’t. You can only get good tea in America if you go to a tea shop (e.g.,
Argo Tea in Chicago), or if a hotel’s breakfast setup has decent tea bags.

Most restaurants that serve hot tea go with the teapot and single tea bag route when serving you. The water is often lukewarm when it gets to you, and the tea is usually Lipton (though that’s changing) and they don’t give out second cups (though, given the quality, there’s probably no call for them).

To me, the Deep South is Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia & South Carolina. The northern parts of Florida & Louisiana . And East Texas. Houston is in Eastern Texas, but we’re a port city–thus, subject to more influences than the stagnant miasma of the Deep South.

When Bobby Flay vied with Paula Deen in a chicken-fried steak cookoff, he lost. Because Brown Gravy is traditional in her part of the South. Flay’s married to a Texan, so he made Cream Gravy…

I could go on. But restaurants offering sweet tea is definitely a new thing here. However, Free Refills of Ice Tea is Gospel in Texas. (Along with Free Chips & Salsa in Tex-Mex restaurants.)

I believe it’s spelled Swate Tay

Today at Cracker Barrel, Mum ordered hot tea and was given the mini pot of hot water and TWO Twinings tea bags. Wonder if they use the same for sweet tea? Hmmmm

Around here, when I’ve asked the folks at Chinese restaurants what kind of tea they serve, they have told me it was Oolong tea, and it is some of the best tasting tea around, imho. I’d gladly pay for it, but they give it out for free.

coffee and iced tea refills have always been free.

I rarely order hot tea or even see it on a menu. they bring a tiny pitcher of hot water and a tea bag. I wouldn’t be surprised that they charge extra for a 2nd bag.