Being an Ar’tisane’

Australia’s boutique tea brand is trying to introduce the concept of mixing loose leaf teas together to create something new, Gerard Ward finds.

It’s difficult enough to get the right amount of milk measurement for your friend’s cuppa, let alone know how black and green tea would possibly go together. Initially the idea of mixing different teas together seemed odd.

Singapore’s no stranger to tea lovers – from the hawker stall’s pulled teh tarik to the traditional Chinese tea shops. While boutique tea brands aren’t new – Singapore’s biggest brand TWG Tea is always putting some interesting blends together – it’s the newer trend of tea-drinkers mixing their own teas together, that Australian tea brand T2 is pushing for, that is interesting.

The opening of T2’s first store in Singapore – at 313@Somerset along Orchard Road – brings Melbourne’s iconic tea brand to Asia. Initially fans of the brand living in Singapore could only get a box of tea through the online store or department stores that imported a small selection.

T2, which began in Fitzroy, Melbourne back in 1996, was purchased by consumer goods company Unilever in 2013, so there’s been a bigger, global push. The boutique’s employees – or tea-jays as they have jokingly been naming themselves – are there to whip up a sample of any of the 150-odd teas and tisanes (caffeine-free herbal teas) available. How else could someone understand the taste difference between the New York Breakfast (hints of maple syrup and pancakes), Melbourne Breakfast (notes of vanilla) and Singapore Breakfast (roasted rice and coconut flakes)?

The quirkier mixes of teas and tisanes, like Turkish Cherry or Lamington – a black tea mixed with cocoa beans and coconut flakes that uncannily smells and tastes like the iconic sponge cake – are what piques the interest.


T2 CEO Nicky Sparshott.

On top of that, mixing blends together with other ingredients like soda water and ice to make something like a berry fizz iced tea seems like a bit more work – though iced drinks is a smash here in Singapore. ‘We don’t want people to feel intimidated,’ T2 CEO Nicky Sparshott begins. ‘But we don’t want it to be mainstream – we want it to feel like an elevated experience you wouldn’t get elsewhere.’

‘I really think tea is the beverage of this millennial generation because of its versatility, and of its ritual,’ Sparshott says. ‘The fact that every single culture in the world has a tea ritual or moment, and it’s manifested in different ways – from Moroccan Mint to colonial English Breakfast.’

One of the things standing in the way of adopting loose leaf teas is the hassle and mess of it all, but with modern-day strainers, teamakers and cold-brew jugs, loose leaf tea shouldn’t be as daunting. You might think weaning off your daily addiction to coffee is tough enough, but wait until you have a shelf with eight different teas to choose from.