Tea discrimination

27 03 2016

I’m currently in the US for a conference. After a nice long walk this morning, I had breakfast in one of the hotel’s restaurants (I looked to eat elsewhere but it was Easter Sunday in a downtown area and nothing else was open).

When I first sat down my server offered me a coffee, but I declined (I don’t drink coffee) and instead asked for a green tea, which I drink very occasionally. He brought me a tea bag, a pot of hot water, and an empty mug for my tea and a nice big glass of iced water.

After my meal, he brought the check and I noticed that I’d been charged $4 for ‘hot tea’, which I’d had to ‘make’ myself.

As a general interest query, I asked him if customers who said ‘yes’ to the offer of coffee got it for free. He said they did, so then I asked him why coffee is free in many places in the US, but you have to pay for tea. It wasn’t an accusatory conversation — I genuinely want to know the reasoning behind it. Coffee itself is not free — someone has to grow it, harvest it, roast it, package it, export it, import it, distribute it, grind it, brew it, etc. And the price of coffee fluctuates with supply and demand and other economic forces as most commodities do. Yet in the US it’s expected to be provided free with a meal in many places, or as a bottomless cup where you pay a token amount for the first cup (e.g. $2) and can refill as often as you like. Obviously, that’s not the case in specialty coffee places like Starbucks and others.

If a restaurant provides coffee for free then why don’t they provide tea (and soft drinks) free of charge too? And if they charge for tea and soft drinks, then why don’t they also charge for coffee?

Is it ‘tea discrimination’?

Can someone explain WHY coffee is free in many places in the US but other beverages aren’t, despite them ALL being a cost the restaurant has to bear? And ‘it’s always been like that’ isn’t an answer!

By the way, as far as I know in Australia you pay for your coffee by the cup — it’s rarely, if ever, free.


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One response

28 03 2016
Cheryl Brown

It’s useful to know that waiters in the US HATE to provide hot tea. They think it is a major inconvenience for them.

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