- a blog about food and value

Why is a teabag with hot water so damn expensive?

A cup of tea from this little pod will cost you about a month's wages (Photo:

Tea is cheap. You’ll buy a box of Robert Robert’s Fairtrade tea (80 bags) for €3.29 in Superquinn. You’ll get the delicious McGrath’s teabags (80 bags) in Aldi for around €1.70. Your standard box of Barry’s tea in Tesco costs around €3.15, or less when it’s on special offer.

Okay, it’s cheap. You get it. A single tea bag costs somewhere between two and five cents, so I suppose a particularly excellent brand or a very good speciality tea might cost around ten cent per bag.

Why is it, then, that a cup of tea is so damn expensive in most cafes and restaurants?  

Anything over €2 is way too expensive for the average, non-Michelin starred restaurant. Prices are notorious in hotels. I very rarely drink tea when out, as you’re paying about 1000 per cent more than you should for nothing more than a teabag and a bit of hot water, and you can get a coffee for the same price. Tea is a drink for the home, and for visiting people.

A random sample of tea prices in Dublin, plucked from

  • Gotham Cafe: €1.95
  • Eastwood and Mays: €1.50
  • Carluccio’s: €1.95
  • Hugo’s: €2.20
  • Le Bon Crubeen: €2.30

In many cases, the price of coffee isn’t far off – surely a tea bag and a bit of water is far less labour and electricity intensive than making coffee from a coffee machine?

I’m saving the most egregious overcharging for last: a pot of tea for €5.35 in the overpriced and over-rated emporium that is Avoca, reluctantly purchased by my mother a few weeks ago. She did raise an objection to the price at the till, and the staff member agreed that it was “a bit pricey.” But she paid for it anyway. I know, some of you will argue that nobody forced her to buy the tea, supply and demand and all that. It’s a fair point. However, being out in Kilmacanogue, there wasn’t any competition and the tea had already been poured, so she handed over her money – at least she raised an objection and expressed a reluctance to buy tea there again.

What do you think? Is tea overpriced? And where have you got good value?


  1. Cornucopia are particularly bad with overcharging for tea – herbal tea for one is about €2, and if you get a pot for two they double the price, even though all you’re getting is one extra teabag and a little bit more water.

  2. You shouldn’t be allowed charge that much.

  3. I used to make the same comments when sitting down to a cup of tea in the city centre, until someone made a counter point to me.

    Are you not paying more so for your seat, your window, the atmosphere, and the comfort hiding indoors somewhere from the rain?

    Their seats would be constantly filled with tea drinkers if they were to charge the reasonable price, and that doesn’t give much back to the cafe does it?

  4. I couldn’t have put it better myself Emma. The same argument could be made for the price of a soft drink in a pub or a sandwich in the same cafe.

  5. Fair point, Emma. However, that doesn’t excuse the appalling quality of tea you’re usually served. A lot of places use the cheapest possible teabags, which contain something that is pretty much teadust.

    I’m happy to pay the going price for a proper cup of tea. Case in point, the Accent Lounge in Dublin charges (if I remember correctly) €2.90 for tea. Yet I’m happy to pay it, because they use lovely, loose leaf tea, they have a choice of a variety of black and herbal tea, and it gets served in a very nice little teapot that contains about three cups.

    €2.00 would still be too much for the measly cup of dust you get in a lot of places.

  6. Agreed Evelien! I rarely anymore buy tea outside the house. It’s amazing they get away with using such crap quality in a country full of such tea connoisseurs. It’s about the same that you’d expect from free breakfast buffet tea on the continent. Bleh.

  7. Why? Because people pay for it.

  8. I hate how expensive tea is to buy when out. I understand the price of it in a nice restaurant or a cafe or tea speciality shop like Wall and Keogh. But when your out and about and just wanna nice cuppa the price adds up. I’m (almost) tempted to carry tea bags around and just pay for hot water. We are off to the Dublin Horse Show soon, its a long day and lots of tea will be drank but hate paying over €2 for a teabag in hot water in a plastic cup. Plus I think you should always be offered a top up of hot water (maybe an extra bag) when buying a pot of tea. I hate when places charge you for a second cup.

  9. “Are you not paying more so for your seat, your window, the atmosphere, and the comfort hiding indoors somewhere from the rain?”

    Yes, plus the very high cost of low-skilled labour in Ireland, per the high minimum wage etc. Madness in current climate.

    But one can go a step further, particularly re. take away tea and coffee, and ask why there aren’t vending machines that could produce a really good cup of tea or coffee (e.g. Cafe Fixx standard for coffee) for a one Euro coin? The whole take away drink industry is waiting for proper automation at high quality and low prices.

  10. I don’t think anyone is naive or wilfully dopey enough to say that tea should only be charged at cost price – of course restaurants have to cover overheads and make a profit. I think the point Peter is making is: why is tea so disproportionate? I heard before that the cost of raw ingredients for a cup of coffee (with grounds, not instant) is about 40c. Cafes charge around €2.80 for coffee, which is a 700% markup. If tea costs 5c (a generous estimate), a €2 cup of tea represents a 4000% markup. Peter says above that up to €2 is fair; I agree that €2 for the tea plus the privilege of using the facilities is fair enough. But €4 for two teabags or €5.35 for a pot is nonsense.

  11. On top of that I’d add, if you go to a fancy restaurant and pay a fair bit for your dinner, why not get a complimentary pot of tea in the end? It would cost the restaurant about 10c and stay in the memory of dinners for a long time… Simple things matter.
    By the way, my local chinese restaurant is very generous with their green tea, topping it up the whole evening for a fixed price. Very nice indeed…

  12. But Liana you’re not factoring in the cost of the waiter and the cost of not being able to turn over a table while you finish your tea. It’s not that straightforward.

  13. I think its funny when tea/coffee is included as a ‘course’. A four course meal – starter, main, dessert and tea/coffee.

  14. Laine you are so right!