T2, ready for take-off

Published September 27, 2021, 1:43 PM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

How do you take your tea: loose leaf or tea bag? And do you appreciate the many types, blends, and flavors of tea? Tea, when done right, is fast becoming the hip, now drink of today. The latest brand launched by John-Michael Hilton’s Visum Ventures & Leaf Beverages PH, T2 from Australia, aims to show us the right way – being mentor and guide to the wonderful world of Tea, especially for the millennials and Z-Generation.

At SM Mall of Asia, SM North EDSA, The Podium, and at SM Aura, you’ll find the colorful, sleek T2 kiosks, and don’t be intimidated by the design and look of the kiosks. They may look expensive and classy, but they’re definitely priced really friendly, and the staff have been trained to be accommodating and enlightening – helping each new Tea enthusiast understand the richness, subtlety, and adventure of Tea culture.

Visum Ventures & Leaf Beverages PH CEO John-Michael Hilton with SM Supermalls President Steven Tan, holding T2’s special Earl Gray-infused soft serve ice cream.

I don’t believe I’ll be doing the following brands a disservice my mentioning them; but to this day, if you were thinking Tea and a retail brand that captured the excitement of the X-Generation and older, it would be TWG (Show of hands, how many actually knew this Singapore brand’s acronym stands for The Wellness Group?); and I’d surmise that down in Australia, some budding Tea enthusiast and entrepreneur decided the time was ripe to create a Tea brand that would speak more directly to the younger generations, and T2 was born. And thanks to John-Michael’s Australian upbringing, these brands (along with Koomi) are familiar to him, and he’s brought them here to the Philippines.

And I’ll be honest, with me, T2 is speaking to the converted, as I’ve always been a tea drinker, and don’t indulge at all in coffee. I’ve always been partial to black teas, green teas, and white ones – loving Earl Gray, Darjeeling, Lapsang Souchong, Sencha, Matcha, Silver Needle, and Jasmine. And you can hardly chalk this up to my time in England as a teenager; as there, they mix tea with milk, destroying it’s rich flavor, which I don’t like to do. But that’s just my personal preference.

This mission, this advocacy to introduce tea and its rich history, in the right way, is what T2 stands for. It was enlightening talking to John-Michael, as admittedly, what’s really popular now is the Asian variants of milk tea. So it is challenging to eschew the popular or the convenient (i.e. tea bags), and push for the use of and appreciation of loose leaf tea. To give you some idea of its provenance and how blends have been championed over the centuries, T2 has assembled 28 varieties of loose leaf tea. They’re smartly packaged in boxes or tins, and there’s an amazing collection of teapots with strainers, and cups with saucers, to highlight how enjoyable the ritual of tea drinking can be.

As a concession to the fact that some people may not always have the luxury of time on their hands to turn it into the righteous ceremony it deserves – steeping the loose leaf and pouring the tea; 10 of the more popular tea blends are available in biodegradable starch teabags. 

If you’ll ask me which ones I’ve tried and would recommend, I’ll say the French Earl Gray is my first great choice. It’s Earl Gray with floral and fruity notes of rose, sunflower and hibiscus, to give the T2 blend a very unique flavor. Hot or cold, I’d champion this one; as when hot, the smoky black tea is tempered by the f-notes, while when served cold, the F-notes suddenly become more pronounced as a refreshing concoction.

The Melbourne Breakfast is my brisk, in the morning reco. And don’t think this just T2 replicating the popular English Breakfast blend of other tea brands. What T2 comes up with is a medium-bodied black tea laced with velvety vanilla, so that suddenly, you’re gifted with a sweetish waker-upper that’s smooth, and yet ready to get you started with a jolt.

At the T2 launch at The Podium, left to right: Andrew Neri, Tania Creighton, Steven Tan, John-Michael Hilton, Ahtisa Manalo, and Mitch So.

The Lemongrass and Ginger Tea of T2 combines the zesty, fresh notes of Lemongrass to the warmth and spicy qualities of ginger. This is a crafted herbal tisane, and I’d go for this over chamomile, which I personally find bland – but that’s me. And I like how so many health benefits are attached to both lemongrass and ginger, so this makes for a great combination. 

So don’t get me started, as I’ll wax rhapsodic about China Jasmine (green tea with jasmine), Pumping Pomegranate (hibiscus with pomegranate), and their Jade Mountain (chocolate and green tea blend) – and that should give you an idea of the world that beckons with tea. From herbal tisanes, to sweet teas, to fruity ones, and exotic ones that evoke distant lands. It’s really the premise of a journey, predicated on taste and fulfillment that Tea offers. We should all be happy that T2 is now here in the Philippines. Come Christmas season, check out the packages and how they make for ideal gifts.