General Question

jca's avatar

Why is it that in most restaurants, you can drink many refills of coffee all for one price, but for tea, there are no refills (when it's really just a 3 cent tea bag and water)?

Asked by jca (28108 points ) March 7th, 2014

I was reminded of this issue when out with some coworkers earlier this evening.

I had coffee and got about three refills, and so did another woman I was with. A third friend had tea, and when she asked for more, the waiter told her that for another tea bag, she would have to pay for another cup of tea, but he could bring her more hot water and she could re-use the other tea bag.

This is the case in almost every restaurant I have been in. You can drink gallons of coffee (which is fairly expensive) if you want to, for the same price. However, to get more tea, you have to pay another $2 or whatever the charge is, just for a regular tea bag (which costs about 3 cents if you get a box of 100 for $3, retail price, which is more than restaurants would be paying). I understand that gourmet tea is more money.

Why is it that in general, in restaurants, you can drink a gallon of coffee for one price, if you wanted, but a tea bag is a few dollars each?

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6 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Sometimes, as you said you can get more hot tepid water and reuse the tea bag for a delicious dishwasher beverage.

Probably because that carafe is available and easy to pour. But it’s a good question.

Tell your friend to throw a few tea bags into her purse and just ask for more warm water. Restaurant tea is always awful, however. I can’t remember the last time I got freshly brewed tea and boiling water, probably at Twenty One in NYC in the seventies.

ibstubro's avatar

Coffee refills are already made, and at the table with the waitress.

Tea refills come in a pot/bag, and are delivered by a server that deserves a tip for the service.
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ccrow's avatar

Double standard! I agree with @gailcalled, restaurant tea is usually lousy- stale, and some brand you never heard of. And if you like herbal tea you’re probably SOL. If you want decent tea, yeah, you should bring your own teabags.

elbanditoroso's avatar

It’s funny you mention this. I was talking about it with a friend the other night.

It seems to be a regional thing. In the South, refills of iced tea are free. In the north (anywhere from Baltimore up to Boston and north) restaurants will generally charge you for iced tea refills – even though, as you say, the cost to the restaurant is a penny or two. But they charge you $2.00 for a refill. What a profit!!!

I don’t have a great answer for you other than “it has always been this way”

bolwerk's avatar

Most places with unlimited coffee refills seem to water it down so much that it’s almost water.

zenvelo's avatar

But you pointed out they will give you all hot water you want – same as the coffee! And I get iced tea refills (in California) when friends don’t get soda refills. But then again some places do give soda refills.

The price difference is that another tea bag means an inventory difference, but more coffee, or more iced tea, or more hot water or more soda does not.

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