In Australia, specifically in Brisbane where I come from, we’re lucky to have two premier tea stores that take their trade seriously – T2 and the Tea Centre. Many people have their opinions about which one they prefer, and admittedly for quite a long time I preferred T2, but some thoughtful friends spent considerable time selecting me a couple of different teas from the Tea Centre and I have developed a newfound respect for their blends and their quirky, unique tea utensils. I feel like T2 is all about modern, minimalist designs – one of the leading brands they stock is the located-in-Switzerland Bodum (tea ware can be found here: http://www.bodum.com/int/en-us/shop/prodlist/4/). With that said, the vintage-inspired purple cup and saucer I use was a T2 gift. Go figure. Yet for me, the Tea Centre has more of a homely feel and a wider variety of tea products to suit a more diverse audience, and in recent months has become my store of choice.
To offer unique tea-drinking experiences, both T2 and the Tea Centre have started to introduce, where space allows them to, an adjoining cafe where customers can settle in and sample some of the tea. Sadly T2 only offers their Teahouse in their Macquarie and Hornsby locations in New South Wales, but the eclectic and inspired additions will surely make their way into other states in the near future. Thankfully, the Tea Centre in Albert Lane in Brisbane City has a cosy drinking area – it’s usually quite busy but well worth a little wait. The staff there have never failed to be friendly and bubbly, and they prepare some of the best tea in town.
Without question, both stores stock a high quality range of loose leaf tea and I can safely say there is a tea in each store for everyone, irrespective of your taste or preference. Why bother with tea? Some blends, particularly green and black teas, are full of antioxidants and can lead to a strengthened immune system and healthier teeth and bones. One of the most famous Chinese teas, Oolong, assists a healthy and functional digestive system, and white tea is the least processed of all, and the closest tea comes to its most natural state. The health benefits are well documented, and with such a wide variety now available (not just the standard English Breakfast and Earl Grey) it is completely possible to convert those non-tea drinkers.
But that’s not what I’m about. You like tea? Fabulous – we’ll get along great. You don’t? Whatever, I’m not going to force it on you. What I want to do is provide you with recommendations of fabulous teas that I am currently drinking. And first up for 2012, it’s my new favourite from the Tea Centre – 1001 Night. It is a unique blend of black and green tea, and is flavoured with jasmine flowers, rose flowers, sunflowers, lemon, passionfruit, safflowers and calendula flowers. It’s a hefty list of ingredients but the delicate balance of flavours is sublime and each flavour is revealed subtly without overpowering any of the others. I prefer it with half a teaspoon of sugar (to satisfy my raging sweet tooth) and no milk. Milk unambiguously changes the flavour of tea and while with some blends it works well, I find that it drowns out some of the less dominant flavours and, for lack of a better expression, ruins the experience.
I should probably add a disclaimer here – I am not in any way affiliated with either of the above mentioned tea stores, though I wish I was, and any recommendations or criticisms are honest. I genuinely love tea, and I understand that sometimes it’s hard to find the right blend or flavour. Perhaps over time, I’ll introduce you to your new favourite tea!