“There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims
Good quality coffee is pretty big in Australia. We drink over 2 billion cups of it outside the home annually and many domestic kitchens have made room on the bench for some kind of fancy-pants espresso machine so even more can be consumed in the home, but such wasn’t always the case. Thirty years ago you were much more likely to find a teapot sitting on the kitchen bench and a tin of Pablo (a cheap, instant coffee) lurking in the pantry. Tea was certainly the beverage of choice in my Irish/Australian family and the one I’ve stuck with. As far as I’m concerned, tea is restorative, refreshing, comforting, invigorating and can improve almost any situation. I’ve been known to hoard vast quantities of it in my kitchen, much of which has been bought at my Adelaide tea boutique of choice – the T Bar Tea Salon.
“There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” ~Bernard-Paul Heroux
I had the pleasure of meeting Peggy Veloudas of the T Bar quite recently and when she wondered if I might like to come along for a chat and a tea tasting I felt a warm glow of happiness spreading through me. Although her husband and brother run one of Adelaide’s long-standing favourite coffee hot-spots, Zuma’s in the Adelaide Central Market, Peggy has a strong history as a tea drinker. While her Cypriot background suggests a dedication to coffee, Peggy owes her fondness for tea to her widowed mother whose hospitality always included a pot of black tea which she would spice up with aromatics for the many local women who would drop by after the death of her husband.
Tea is a cup of life. ~Author Unknown
Once Peggy started to travel with her own family she started to buy tea to take home with her, bringing back as many varieties as she could find from each trip. She must have had more of a collection than I did as eventually husband John suggested they actually open their own tea shop and in 1999 T Bar was born. Initially, they found a tea broker in Australia and Peggy embarked on a learning curve, selecting and purchasing from him. The teas were delivered to her house, cluttering up their living areas as she sniffed, brewed and packaged them for the store herself. As her knowledge and understanding of the leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush grew, her fondness for tea turned into a passion and she now buys direct from tea growers and ethical plantations in Sri Lanka, India, China, Japan and here in Australia in the Daintree region. Peggy is also watching, with interest, the early plantings of Japanese green tea in Victoria with an eye to sourcing that a little closer to home if and when possible
If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you. ~Gladstone, 1865
Whether it is a fragrant cup of delicate green tea or a fortifying cup of strong black, a cup of tea is a complex brew of art, tradition and geography – basically a “climate in a cup” as Peggy says. She walked me through a representative selection of some of her wonderful teas beginning with the delicate Silver Needles, the finest white tea available, then the comforting Vulnerabili -T, a delicious blend of Ceylon black tea and vanilla, to Darjeeling Red Thunder, a heart-starter and a personal favourite of mine and finishing with the gloriously detailed Lily Jasmine white tea ball which blooms in the pot before your very eyes.
Tea…is a religion of the art of life. ~Okakura
The T Bar Tea Salon now has three separate stores in Adelaide, including one in the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer. The franchise for this store was donated to the medical centre and all profits from it go back into medical research to help fight cancer. Tbar is still locally owned and run by Peggy and John and her brother Tony and his wife, but the days of tea boxes in the living room are gone. They have a small staff in front of a warehouse in Torrensville where they package and blend their range of 120 different teas, including naturopathic blends which are coordinated under consultation with a qualified naturopath. Here they also put together custom blends for some exclusive customers including Kangaroo Island’s Southern Ocean Lodge, the Darwin Casino and Adelaide’s Convention Centre – among others. Their generosity doesn’t stop with the Flinders Medical Centre either as both the underprivileged helped out by OzHarvest and the activists on board the Sea Shepherd can attest.
As I was reluctantly making my way out the door after a rapturous morning discussing one of my favourite subjects I had one more question for Peggy. With all of the knowledge and skill she has gleaned over the years, I was keen to know what her favourites are. “I have some seasonal favourites, depending upon the weather. For warmth and comfort in the chill of winter I just love Vulnerabili-T, but my all time favourite is the fragrance and flavour of Lychee Oolong” she said. Now, if you’ll excuse me – I’m just off to put the kettle on.
We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week…
The bottom is out of the Universe.