It's time to think different and offer your breakfast guests a better beverage, whether that's a healthy fruit and herb infusion or a ready-made cold-brew. Ian Boughton looks at the options
Not everybody will agree that breakfast really is ‘the most important meal of the day', but certainly, it is the only meal when a hot beverage is served first.
And yet, a lot of hotel breakfast beverages are under-sold. Busy staff only have time for the question ‘tea or coffee?', and don't have time to preach the benefits of interesting products in the way that suppliers wish they could. At the very least, plead several suppliers, their ideas deserve the effort of a sign saying: ‘Our new breakfast beverages are great, and this is why we selected them'.
There really is demand, claim the brands. "Breakfast trends are changing," says Aidan Ledger, head of out-of-home at Twinings. "Alternative milks are booming, and caffeine-free and vitamin and mineral sales are increasing." Twinings has launched a range of 11 pyramid tea bags that invite operators to "create a real theatre with tea, especially at breakfast", such as offering a soothing honey and rooibos oat latte on a damp morning.
"Seven million consumers like to try different hot beverages out of home, so it's now important to have a diverse breakfast menu," argues Michelle Jee, brand manager at Tetley. "Tea drinkers are becoming progressively more adventurous."
Tetley has launched a new enveloped tea range, with herbal variants including fresh mint, and lemon and ginger, as well as fruity and green infusions.
Although English Breakfast is what clients expect when they simply order ‘tea', says John Mellor of Shibui, there is room for clever improvement: "Increasing the variety of your breakfast teas can be easy. I have both English and Scottish Breakfast teas; the English is Assam and Ceylon, whereas the Scottish is 100% Assam. The malty taste of a full-leaf Assam is always going to ‘wow' at breakfast, without being too far out."
These little changes add character to your menu, says Georgina Webb, operations co-ordinator at Bird & Blend: "Our Builder's Breakfast is a full-strength tea, perfect with a Paddington (marmalade on toast!), and our Earl Grey Creme is a classic with a difference – it's bergamot with vanilla, which makes it smoother and creamier." Clean and green
Not everyone wants to kickstart the day – some need to ease into it more carefully, says Bryan Martins, marketing director at Clipper.
An emerging sub-category of customers, that he calls ‘Generation Tea', are conscious about natural ingredients and environmental impact and they love infusions.
Clipper has now launched its hemp infusions which, unlike others, use hemp seeds rather than leaves, which the brand says give too ‘grassy' a taste. The Karma Mama ‘hug in a mug' includes chamomile, lavender and lemon balm, and the Groovy Ginger Hemp features ginger, lemongrass and chamomile.
These modern customers also expect eco-friendliness, says Charlotte Green, sales manager at Tea From the Manor. "The blend no one wants at breakfast is tea leaves and plastic! Our tea bags are made from a plastic-free mesh called soilon and are fully compostable and biodegradable."
A breakfast tea menu can be simple, says Louise Cheadle, founder of Teapigs: "Having your tea jars in pride of place on a breakfast bar, and even a simple A-board saying you are serving award-winning tea or coffee, will speak volumes and engage customers.
"The new flavours in our cold-brew range will engage them: peach and mango, lychee and rose, cucumber and apple, pink grapefruit, watermelon and hibiscus, and blackcurrant and raspberry. They all brew quickly – drop one in your glass of water and leave it for as long as you like."
Coffee for hotels and restaurants
The coffee sector is always critical of hotels' attitude to breakfast beverages. "Hotels need to start serving better coffee, it's as simple as that," says Emily Bain, sales manager at Ozone Coffee. "You wouldn't tolerate staff who can't make a classic cocktail, so why serve commodity coffee? A hotel's reputation should not be let down by a drink that can be done much better, relatively easily."
By contrast, she says, the Standard at King's Cross decided to put coffee at the heart of its experience. "They asked us to advise on what would and wouldn't work to achieve high-quality, on a large scale. At no point did they try to reduce costs, and they put top-of-the-range equipment at every bar and point of service… this has given us the idea to create a full suite of digital training videos to share with clients."
Lost Sheep Coffee has even created a guide for brewing its Nespresso-compatible capsules. "Many hotels fall flat on their faces with hot drinks," remarks founder Stuart Wilson. "But we have worked with some amazing hotels and boutique B&Bs to increase their coffee game massively – our in-room coffee menu has been a huge hit. This has added value to the guest experience, and has shown our hotel clients we can offer imaginative service and still be greener and fairer than the giants."
Capsule coffee for breakfast is also offered by Krüger with its K-Fee Grande machine, which is intended for buffet service – the capsule container and water tank are designed to cope with a large number of guests.
A breakfast cliché holds that espresso is the most energetic start to the day, but it is not the most practical, says Lynsey Harley, founder of Modern Standard Coffee.
"For hotel breakfasts, espresso-based drinks are never a good idea – serving multiple people at the same time results in poor execution and a bad customer experience. We're seeing more clients serving batch-brew filter coffee at breakfast, because a speciality-grade bulk-brew coffee will result in a consistently better tasting cup for the customer, and less hassle for staff."
David Cutler, Lavazza's head of training, agrees: "Bulk-brew can provide a consistently high standard at speed, and this applies to everyone from micro-cafés to big hotels. The caveat is that you need quality coffee, and the right equipment, and set up correctly."
Good buffet coffee can be even easier, says Natalie King, out-of-home manager at Taylors of Harrogate. "For hotels with a breakfast buffet arrangement, providing decent coffee can be challenging, but our coffee bags contain fresh roast and ground coffee and work like a tea bag, brewing in just two minutes."
A coffee menu is more useful than you might think, says Maya Eilon, founder of the craft roastery Mont58.
"Brunch has become a huge occasion, and it is important to create a café experience for this, because a broader menu will avoid your guests going to other locations for their brunch coffee... and will also attract customers who aren't staying guests."
Juice for hotels and restaurants
It has become important to cater to the diverse tastes of consumers by offering more variety in breakfast juices, says Christopher Banks, chief executive at Crafted. "People now expect variety rather than the ‘same old', so choice is now key.
"Crafted is made with a blend of fruits and water, is 20% lower in sugar and calories than fruit juice, and is the alternative for guests who aren't keen on drinking plain water."
Several brands say ready-to-drink cans work in a help-yourself buffet situation.
"This is a popular breakfast choice," agrees Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca Cola. "Costa ready-to-drink doubled in 2020."
A canned vegan ready-to-drink cold-brew latte and chai latte come from Minor Figures, which says that oat milk gives them a creamy texture and a velvety micro-foam feel.
"Cold-brew coffee gives a lower acidity and enhanced aromatic notes, and is quick and easy to serve at breakfast," says Stuart Holmes, managing director at Illy. "It comes in a three-litre pack, and no equipment is required – chill, and it is ready to serve."
An unexpected item suggested for breakfast service is Horlicks, usually regarded as a soothing bedtime drink. It has already been marketed as a breakfast drink in India.
"The basic breakfast menu is no longer enough for those who are looking for more from their first meal of the day," explains Michelle Younger, marketing head at Aimia. "So breakfast has become a key occasion for innovation. Horlicks can be used to create variations to shakes, smoothies, pancakes, oats and porridge, because it adds a moreish, biscuity flavour – it's a simple way to instantly add something different."
So is hot chocolate. "A hot chocolate with breakfast is now very popular," says Brad Wright, sales director at Marimba. "In the morning rush in both our cocoa houses, we do equal amounts of hot chocolate and coffee, because a lot of people drink neither tea nor coffee – for them, chocolate is the drink that kickstarts their day."
Smoothie does it
Breakfast could become a beverage-only occasion, comes the startling suggestion from Adrian Massey of C'go, whose ‘category-changing' product is the first vitamin-enriched multi-wholegrain cereal and premium oat milk.
"Breakfast is the only meal where we consume the beverage first. It is reasonable to believe this could evolve into a beverage-only meal… we have already seen signs of this," he says.
A big step forward for plant-based milks is that they are now good enough to be enjoyed on their own by the glass, says Lilk. "Single-ingredient milks are nice, but even more interesting when you start mixing. Our oat and rice doesn't split and it froths and foams well. Our Lush, with oat, coconut and quinoa, is good in tea and coffee, chocolate and smoothies."
The Swedish brand Sproud offers a ‘milk' made from yellow split peas, intended to match the taste, mouthfeel and nutritional value of dairy. It has a high protein content but low sugar, and is said to froth well for coffee and to work well in smoothies.
Are smoothies a breakfast drink? Yes, says David Ashton, sales manager at Jersey Dairy, who has created a Thickshake mix. To some diners, he says, breakfast really means a healthy shot of fruit and fibre. Smoothies and shakes are great vehicles for this, and flagging their health benefits up on a breakfast menu is an extremely useful tactic.
Bird & Blend 01273 286177 www.birdandblendtea.com
C'go 07904 521289 www.cgodrinks.com
Clipper 01276 609000 www.clipper-teas.com
Costa 0808 1 000 000 www.coca-cola.co.uk/brands/costa-coffee
Crafted 0208 241 5779 www.crafteddrinks.co.uk
Horlicks 01942 4086000 www.aimiafoods.com
Illy 01604 821234 www.illy.com/en-gb/home
Jersey Dairy 01534 818 500 www.jerseydairy.com
Krüger 0161 737 1937 https://www.k-fee.co.uk
Lilk 07814 022935 www.lilk.co
Lost Sheep 01227 230444 www.lostsheepcoffee.com
Marimba 01279 714527 www.marimbaworld.com
Minor Figures www.minorfigures.com
Modern Standard Coffee 07867 300 213 www.modernstandardcoffee.com
Mont58 07977 511398 www.mont58coffee.com
Ozone 0207 490 1039 www.ozonecoffee.co.uk
Shibui 0131 448 1598 www.shibui-tea.co.uk
Sproud 07966 660558 www.besproud.com
Taylors 01423 814000 www.taylorsofharrogate.co.uk
Tea From the Manor 0161 337 3126 www.teafromthemanor.co.uk
Teapigs 0203 141 8495 www.teapigs.co.uk
Tetley 0800 028 3728 www.tetleyfoodservice.co.uk
Twinings 01264 313444 www.twinings.co.uk/food-service
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