An inspiring chat with T2 Sommelier and Developer Michelle Mc Goff about everything tea
I have to admit. I’m a coffee person and there are not many days I won’t have one – preferable at a new location while catching up with friends.
However, when I discovered T2 years ago in Melbourne, I found a new addiction. Tea! The bold, funky branding, endless flavours and new teas T2 develops, it’s a feast. Having them as one of our brand partners this year has been great and it’s the perfect excuse to try as many different flavours as possible.
When I had the chance to chat with Michelle Mc Goff, Tea Sommelier and Developer for T2, I knew it would be inspiring and I can’t wait to meet her when I’m in Melbourne later this year and continue our talk.
About Michelle Mc Goff
Michelle Mc Goff in tasting lab
Michelle works for T2 for 9 years now. We talked about the early days when the brand was still small and very local. She shares more about the different roles she has had within the company and how they all prepared her for her current role of Tea Sommelier and Developer. Lastly, of course I had to ask about her favourite teas. I hope you enjoy this little behind the scenes, and perhaps grab a cup of tea before reading!
Michelle started as Store Manager on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, which is the birthplace of T2. This was the first store they opened in 1996, and coincidentally the first store I ever visited (and kinda fell in love). T2 wants to reinvent and reimagine tea leafs and share their new brews with anyone who wants to try. This is still a very big part of the in-store experience; try and explore. There are a couple of teas out to try and they’re always happy to brew you a cup if you want to try a specific flavour. The unique tea flavours from T2 are inspired by people from around the world and places that are visited. Or they take ancient tea rituals, reimagine them and bring them to a modern tea table. For T2, every cup is a chance to make tea more enjoyable, more accessible and more experimental.
“It’s our opportunity to connect, understand and share with the world our love for a better cup of tea, every day.” – T2
Image provided by T2 – Founder Maryanne Shearer
Being Irish, Michelle always loved tea and grew up in the fascinating world of endless cups of it. Thus, joining a tea company made total sense. When she joined in 2009, the company was still relatively small – only 19 stores and there was a lot of multi-tasking going on. This made working for T2 an exciting, dynamic and sometimes challenging workplace. The founder and creative force behind the business, Maryanne Shearer, was still very much involved and the company felt like a family. Nowadays, with 98 stores scattered across all continents, the family is a bit more complex. The requirements for each market are very different as well, like the blends and teas that have to be created or what customer materials are needed. This creates a new and exciting challenge; to investigate and understand the desires of those customers.
Image provided by T2 – Early days T2, with founder Maryanne Shearer 2nd from the right.
Michelle’s journey throughout T2
After Michelle worked as a Store Manager in Fitzroy for about 2 years, she moved into Training, followed by Product Manager / Buyer and then Tea Specialist & Developer. All these different roles within the business gave her a true understanding of who T2’s customers are and what they love. She also clearly understands what local teams need in regard to education and knowledge to share with these customers. She aims to balance these insights with her business sense when creating new blends and bringing them to market on time and at an affordable price.
Over the last nine years Michelle further refined her palate to maintain the quality of each tea in T2’s extensive range. This resulted in her next and perhaps most exciting role till date: certified Tea Sommelier & Developer. To become certified as a Tea Sommelier she delved deeper in the bottomless world of tea. Exploring the science, the art, the history of different terroirs and cultures. Now she brings all that knowledge and passion to her everyday life of tea education and sourcing to curate an exquisite range of teas. She loves how this also allows her creativity to run lose to develop new and exciting flavour combinations. Ensuring the quality and consistency of each blend is perhaps the most challenging part of her new job. Natural products like tea can change from season to season. The ingredients are very much affected by climate change / harvest issues or socio-political issues. Hearing customers share how a tea blend or tea ritual has had a positive impact on their life, is Michelle’s inspiration to always strive for the best.
The unique elements of T2
One of Michelle’s favourite tea rituals is sharing, and she has her own ritual at home. When friends come to her house they first choose a tea together, then Michelle chooses the tea pot and her friends choose their favourite cup & saucer from a marble lazy susan of cups. They brew the tea and then they share stories about life and universe. This ritual of sharing is very important to T2 as a brand and they’ve brought this into their store experience. They encourage customers to be curious, adventurous and inquisitive.
When asking for her favourite tea blend Michelle has too many options to choose from and highlights that there is not one tea that will satisfy all. The stand out blends to her are the different breakfast blends. If you like Kaya toast you have to try Singapore Breakfast, if you like maple pancakes try New York Breakfast, and if you’re in Australia and like ANZAC biscuits, the Canberra Breakfast is amazing. If you want a sophisticated, straight up awesome black tea blend, the Morning Sunshine will hit the spot. There are too many to choose just one.
More than sipping tea
Besides delicious teas, T2 encourages you to be creative with teas at home. Blend different teas to your preference or use teas when baking. The website features a range of recipes with drinks like Golden Milk Turmeric Tea Latte or a Super Green Matcha Smoothie. There are lots of food options as well for breakfast, dinner or as sweet treats. What do you think of Jade Mountain Caramel Cups, Tea Infused Trifle or New York Breakfast Tea Pancakes? It just shows how passionate T2 is about their blends and wants to share this with as many people as possible.
Another sign of T2’s creativity is its many collaborations, like with Pana Chocolate last year when they created 4 unique chocolate-tea bars (unfortunately currently sold-out online). Michelle mentions this was an exciting and challenging at the same time since there were two strong brands coming together. The process was very interesting. Pana Chocolate would bring in their samples and T2 would brew the tea that was the inspiration. They would taste the chocolate and tea side by side to make sure the chocolate was reflecting the experience T2 customers have with that particular tea. The result was four yummy chocolates flavours. While no new (chocolate) collaborations have been announced yet, I’m quite sure there will be new fusions launched.
Tea really has so many layers and uses – I could go on for hours and can’t wait to head over to Melbourne in a couple of months to continue my chat to Michelle. I want to further understand her creative process and how she keeps herself inspired and open to new ideas. With new blends releasing every couple of weeks, I can only imagine the pressure Michelle and her team are under at times.
What’s your tea ritual?
I think you can have different tea rituals, pending on time of day or type of tea you drink. For example I have a different morning and evening ritual. In the morning I love to start with a cup of tea, currently finishing the last Christmas Breakfast bags I have left, sit outside on our patio and watch the sun come up while listening to a podcast or audio book. In the evening I enjoy making a pot of Detox after dinner and watch some television or read a book before heading to bed.
Do you have a tea ritual? Share with us in the comments below and which tea you prefer to drink with your ritual.
T2 Tea & Table Tales
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