After one hour with Jen at Aussie chain T2’s first Scottish store, I was ready to replace everything I drink with tea.
Sound daft? Well, you too need to discover how T2 is doing tea differently.
Founded in 1996 in the Fitzroy district of Melbourne, T2 describes its mission as “reinventing and reimagining the humble tea leaf”. Now, with over 200 blends to their name – which include innovative takes on old favourites along with more weird and wonderful combinations – that mission has arrived on Buchanan Street. And, if the buzz in the store every time I walk past of a lunchtime is anything to go by, it’s already capturing the imagination of Glaswegians just as much as it has the locals of Shoreditch and Soho.
Every T2 shop calls back to that first shop in Fitzroy, with the same wooden floorboards and walls covered in replicas of the same Chinese newspaper that the original teas arrived wrapped in. But you can expect some local touches too: breakfast blends which call to mind some of T2’s international locations and, in the Glasgow store, a bespoke “tea fountain” apparently inspired by our city’s artistic heritage. Of course, the name and the bright orange featured in T2’s logo calls to mind another Scottish institution – but that’s a whole other kind of brewing up.
An Australian herself, Jen is T2 Glasgow’s assistant manager – and, like the rest of the staff, is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about all of the teas on offer. She started me off on my “tea journey” by brewing me up an Apple Crumble, before we took in some of the company’s best sellers: the slightly fruity French Earl Grey, green tea-with-a-difference Green Rose, a rooibos-based Red Choc Mint and the super tasty Fruitalicious.
We also took a closer look at matcha, a powdered green tea that’s used in Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies and which has been celebrated for its health benefits. T2’s matcha comes in vanilla, choc, cinnamon and turmeric varieties, and they also sell all the whisks and bowls you need to properly prepare it. While the hot matcha was tastier than I had expected, the real revelation for me was what Jen called a “matcha fresh“: matcha poured over ice and lemon, and topped with soda water. Fresh-tasting summer drinks don’t get much better than this – plus, with a bit of rum in it? I suspect it would be heaven.
Something I’ve always enjoyed about loose leaf tea is the ceremony behind it: rather than pouring boiling water over a bag of the stuff you have to take time out to prepare it properly, forcing you to take some time out from whatever daily stress has called for a tea break. The perfect cuppa, Jen told me, requires a combination of three Ts: tea of course, but also temperature and time. I’m also coveting like crazy one of the gorgeous clear perspex teapots they use to brew up in the shop, in which you can watch the leaves and added bits unfurl before perfectly straining it into a serving pot below.
The difficulty, after my hour of demonstrations and samples, was in choosing only one blend to take away with me. Of course, it had helped that I’d already popped in on a lunch break a few days before and that my first choice, Caramel Brownie, was already sitting on my desk – so I left with a box of New York Breakfast, because it seemed appropriate. It’s a breakfast tea, but with added cinnamon and other flavourings which give you a hint of a stack of pancakes with your cuppa. Absolutely divine.
Whenever you visit a T2, there will always be plenty of hot and cold samples to try and touching, smelling and tasting is encouraged. Each of the loose leaf teas, which are attractively stacked in colourful cubes along the walls, has a sample next to it specifically for sniffing – and if the shop’s not too busy, and there is a particular brew you’re desperate to try, just ask and they might just be able to brew it up for you.
I’d urge you to do so and to report back with your favourites – it’ll be a long time before I manage to sample every one of T2’s teas for myself!
Thanks to T2 for inviting me to experience their teas and for the samples. All views are my own and unbiased.