At the forefront of the loose-leaf tea revolution stands T2, an Australian tea company who uprooted themselves from Melbourne and nestled in Shoreditch. Just a short walk from Shoreditch High Street station, the UK’s first store is hidden away on Redchurch Street, and offers customers over 150 types of both loose leaf and bagged teas.
My brewing expert for the morning was Emma, who’s been with the company for six years – she even moved over from Australia to continue the T2 philosophy. She explains the story behind T2 to me as I sip on one of their white teas, Pai Mu Tan.
“T2 Shoreditch was the first in the UK, so it’s special, and we had to make a big impression. The main thing we do is we love tea and we love our customers. Everything we do is for the love of tea, and we’re trying to create a T2 generation – we want to be at the forefront of bringing tea out of grandma’s closet and reinvigorating it, giving it life for the next generation.”
The company began in Melbourne, as the brainchild of entrepreneur Maryanne Shearer, who originally wanted to start a homewares business but branched out into the world of tea instead.
Every store has a Now Sipping wall with new favourites and classic blends, a smelling table at the front of the store, and a plethora of tea makers and crockery to take home. “The Now Sipping wall will change as our favourites do – at the moment it’s a Mother’s Day gift set, but we also have matcha on there because it’s one of our best products and very ‘in’ right now,” Emma said.
Walking into a T2 store, customers are offered a completely unique experience to that of any standard tea shop. Its blackened steel interior sets it apart from the rest; the dark, stripped interior is more like a tea library rather than a store and that is what defines them.
Greeted by a friendly tearista, I am invited to discover the ‘smelling’ table at the front of the store to learn about the types of tea on offer, browse the huge wall of teas, and even make some myself on the tea bar. Emma explains the tea-making process to me, something that she says not many people know about.
“All tea that contains tea leaf in it comes from the same plant,” she said. “Green, white, black, they all come from the camellia sinensis. Then it depends on the way that the leaves are picked and processed that determines what tea it’s going to be. White tea is the least processed, and black tea is the most – if you think about it on a sliding scale, like a spectrum. As you move along the spectrum you have more caffeine and less antioxidants, like in black tea.”
“That’s what I love about tea – from one plant you get so many different flavours and you can drink depending on what mood you’re in. One of the questions we get asked the most is what our favourite tea is – my response would be… Which category of tea are we talking about?”
Although T2 offers a vast range of teas, they keep track of what’s trending. I’m invited to try their ceremonial grade matcha tea, a Japanese tea ceremony drink that’s popping up in coffee, tea and even food. “Matcha is everywhere at the moment!” Emma laughs.
“When we’re talking about green tea, matcha is one of my favourites. I love the science behind it – before they pick it, they put the tea plant in the shade for 20 days which gives it that amazing bright green colour. The plant also produces more of the amino acid L-theanine, which is only found in tea. That increases your brain waves that make you feel more relaxed…that’s why a cup of tea solves everything.”
Emma and the other tearistas explained why a personal service is so important to T2: “What I love about my job is being able to match the tea to the customer.” She smiles. “You feel so good about yourself when you get one that’s perfect for them!”