Further along Willis Street, not far from the Tea Leaf Tea store, I see it: The Sign. It is big, bright and Australian. It says T2.
Forget any preconceptions you have of tea. Come inside – if you can fit in the door – T2 is crowded. What are they all doing here – in a tea store? Customers circle a bar where a snappy young man with impeccable manners pours tea into miniature cups. “We’re low on chai”, he tells an assistant over his shoulder. The assistant immediately zig-zags through the crowd to hand the message on to those out back. Meanwhile I spot a space at the bar. Yes, the chai jug is low, and the spiced brew is delicious. The young man in charge has noticed us now. “Made with soy milk” he tells us. He has a lovely smile. I try another. Nearby a young woman wears a slouch cap and she has four silver earrings in her ear. A jug of vibrant-red iced tea awaits her consideration. I try all the iced teas and then I notice the chai jug has been refilled.
The teaware displays at T2 are gorgeous, cheerful, fun, lavish. Then there is the tea. I check the black tea section only to discover a gap where the Keemun should be – there are two cartons left. Mine! My preccccioussssss …
A sweet Asian girl has found us. “Please can I help?” she asks. H.H. requires directions to the pu-erh and I am about to pay for my Keemun at the counter where I plan to taste the chai. “You can taste anything you like” the young woman adds, a picture of hope, her tiny hands clasped in front of her apron. “I can have it made for you.”
All this is unprecedented in the recent history of tea! I did not expect to be this impressed and I am glad I have investigated the rumours for myself. At the end of the day it is true: tea is in revival. What will this mean for civilisation? I do not know. Then I found myself thinking about Tea Leaf Tea, just up the road from T2. Tea Leaf Tea has a different kind of thing going on, more personal, more relaxed, less excitement than in T2. Luckily, within the tea industry, there is a style and flavour to suit all tastes – well most – even at shopping experience level. You just have to discover what it is you like in a good cup of tea and every now and then try something different.