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A TEA break holds deep resonance at T2, Melbourne purveyors of gourmet cuppas.
At the company’s Collingwood headquarters, high-spirited staff members are known to fall into a reverie when selecting a mood-enhancing brew from the wall of fragrant offerings in the kitchen. “You need to select the right tea for the right time,” product manager Michelle Mcgoff says. “And ask yourself how it makes you feel.”
In such a coffee-centric country, perhaps no one has done as much to popularise the myriad forms of tea as T2. From a single shop on Brunswick St in Fitzroy, the irreverent brand has flowered to 86 Aladdin’s cave-like stores in Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK. This year also marks the company’s 20th anniversary.
“We have a unique approach – it’s tea done differently,” says Deanna Moylan, global product director.
In two decades, they have sourced the finest leaves from around the globe, designed countless psychedelic ceramics, and developed canny brewing tools. Their new stainless steel matcha flask is equipped with a whisk in the cap.
The finely ground green tea is the best seller in the UK and US, reflecting the power of the wellness movement, while French earl grey and Melbourne breakfast are the local leaders. The company now possesses a library of more than 200 teas. “A lot of our customers are thirsty for knowledge,” Moylan says. Unilever acquired the brand in 2013 but has preserved its quirky sensibilities. The T2 offices resemble a tea party, culinary laboratory, and a religious shrine. Black-clad acolytes buzz around the animated ground floor, while the serene first floor is dedicated to tasting, testing and customising. Mcgoff, a “tea sommelier”, talks up the flavour profiles of darjeeling, assam and lapsang during a tea flight. “It’s like wine appreciation,” she says.
Next year, the brand will take an even bigger step, opening a flagship store in Singapore. While they are sensitive to the nuances of each market, mad-hatter eccentricity will always be their lodestar. Their singular approach to brewing, styling and retailing will never change they say. Not for all the tea in China.