I’ll admit that talking about coffee is not the most normal way to start a post about tea. However, I’ve never been called normal in my life and I’ve got no intention of starting now, so grab a seat and let’s have a chat over a cuppa. You know when you go into a coffee shop and order ‘a latte please, with half-whole milk, split quad shots, a shot of decaf, no foam and a squeeze of caramel’? Then they look at you and say: ‘Sure, no problem.’
I think you know that secretly, deep down, underneath that Middle Class, almond juice infused, lentil pasta covered exterior you know that’s a bit weird. Yeah, I thought so. There isn’t a single other drink that people contaminate on such a regular basis in such odd and complicated ways. I mean you wouldn’t do that to a cup of tea would you? I would never pollute a lovely cup of tea with something so abnormal or strange as soya milk, for example. Why is it even called milk for goodness sake? It’s never seen a cow in it’s unnaturally long shelf life. No, that’s not for me, not a chance. No way.
…Or so I thought.
Tea. It’s a true English institution. You won’t find many people who don’t like a nice cup of tea this side of the Atlantic and it’s is a fairly safe bet to ease most sticky situations. If your preferred daily fix is PG Tips, Yorkshire, Twinings or Tetley then you’re in good company as 84% of the British population drink at least one cup a day. And as a fully paid up member of the ‘Keep Calm And Put The Kettle On’ club, I make no apologies for the importance of tea in my life. So, when T2 invited me in to their new store in the Centre:MK to talk about how to get the most out of my mug I thought ‘Super, what a lovely opportunity for a bit of tea, I might even get a crumpet out of it if I’m lucky.’ I didn’t expect a life changing experience.
T2 come to the UK
T2 are a relatively new Australian brand supplying premium leaf tea. These don’t come in tea bags and, to be frank, are a bit pricier than your usual cuppa. So naturally I pushed for proof that the additional expense was worth it when Jordan, the Store Manager, met me and started to introduce a few of the tea varieties. I nodded politely and drank an iced pomegranate fruit tea and agreed that yes, it was very tasty – perfect for The Child on a hot day. We moved on and the Irish Breakfast was perfectly punchy and as good a cup of tea as I’ve had in months. The Baxter’s Bun tea was perhaps a little gimmicky but it was, again, nice and yes, I could smell the cinnamon. But as I drank, something was nibbling the back of my mind, something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. What was that she had said before we started? Milk, something? Hang on, what’s that in my otherwise delicious hot cross bun cup of tea? It looks like milk, it smells like milk but it tastes like… not milk.
Soya milk. Nasty, fake milk scientifically designed to be genetically neutral whilst at the same time being as horrid as possible, so well done to the team who made that possible. I had to mention it. It turns out to be a very sensible anti-lawsuit device because silly people who come in wanting to try some tea might sue T2 if they are given actual, real milk. Perhaps a sad indictment of the world we live in today but I can see why it happens.
So, with the slight exception of a bread inspired tea, there’s nothing particularly crazy so far. Now though, Jordan started talking about all of the different types of tea that T2 have on offer, and there are A LOT. There are more types of tea than I’ve ever heard of or have any idea what to do with (green teas, yellow teas, white teas, fruit and flower teas) and Jordan mentioned that the teas here are also suitable for use in Japanese and Chinese tea ceremonies, so it’s clear that these guys take tea seriously. Then came the question that was the beginning of the end: ‘Have I ever had some green matcha tea?’
I considered my response. ‘Perhaps I had some in an ice cream once but other than that, no I don’t think so.’ ‘Would I like to try some?’ ‘Well of course!’ And it’s responses like this that get me into trouble. Matcha tea, as the T2 team proceed to tell me, comes in three distinct formats. Firstly some of the crushed matcha leaf powder (available from T2) is spooned into a matcha tea bowl (also available from T2), using a matcha tea spoon (similarly available from T2) and mixed with a matcha tea whisk (likewise available from, you guessed it; T2) with a few drops of some soya milk (not available from T2 but it can be found in the inappropriately named health food isle of your local supermarket). A small amount of the warmed so-called ‘milk’ can then be added to the paste to make a small shot for consumption.
Do not drink this.
I mean, you can if you want to but honestly, it tastes of hideousness and regret. The tea is so strong it will strip the enamel off your teeth before you realise your mistake. This was format number one… this surely could not be improved with anything consumable, let alone more soya, but for version two we put more in anyway. As feared, it didn’t help. By the time we were at the third and final matcha cup I was starting to doubt my commitment. It’s all well and good putting yourself up for these things but come on, self punishment is not part of the deal. The paste was primed, the concoction was whisked and the cup was this time completely filled with soya milk and it tasted… completely, absolutely, bloody delicious.
The sheer volume of nutty, soya milk had softened the offensively strong green tea and with some form of witchcraft that I cannot otherwise describe, had changed the texture from one of sticky and glutinous to the best kind of tea flavoured hot chocolate; all silky and as smooth as you could hope for. For a tea-a-holic like me, this is the kind of drink I could fall in love with and this is the kind of drink that could temporarily turn me from a hunter/gathering acolyte of the meat heavy BBQ to the dark side of a scientifically approved, animal free diet.
I walked out of T2 knowing that however you have your tea; vegan, black, white, yellow, milky, yeasted, fruity or even infused with rose buds, T2 are only really interested in letting you have a cup of tea the way you want it. And that’s something that I’m more than happy to sign up to. So the next time I sit down for a nice cup of tea thanks to T2, things are going to get a whole lot more interesting.