tea and wine with peggy veloudos of t-bar tea salon, south australia

The T-Bar is a specialty teahouse located in Adelaide, South Australia.  Having been around since 1999, they have seen the Australian tea landscape change over the years; they also know a thing or two about what makes for a great teahouse atmosphere. T-bar is the kind of place to come, enjoy a pot, learn and relax.  They have beautiful Captain’s tables for those wanting a read a book while sipping their tea, and on-street seating for those wanting to enjoy the South Asutralian sun and enjoy an alfresco experience, and even seating within the famous Adelaide Central Markets.

They also sell some Australian grown teas, two styles of black tea.  I’m yet to try this tea but it conjures up thoughts of boiling a billy, wattle trees and kookaburras doesn’t it.  I think this is part of the appeal of tea and tea culture to me, there are local variances and local specialties and they all add to the wonderful variety of the tea world, each in their own, unique way. I had  a chat with Peggy Veloudos from T-Bar on tea, the tea culture in Australia and what tea means to her. You can find the T-Bar online, on Facebook and on Twitter as @tbarteasalon

I am moving back to Australia in a couple of weeks, after spending a year away, and am very excited about sharing more stories from the Australian tea landscape.

How would you describe tea culture in Australia today, have you seen it change much over the last few years.

With the ever-growing awareness of the health benefits of tea available to us today, and the quality now finally available to us, tea culture in Australia has certainly moved ahead where we now find that the consumer is constantly searching for healthier options and are really taking notice of the Eastern and European cultures diets and ways of life, with tea becoming a major impact on this.

We have also come a long way from just popping a tea-bag in a cup, (not that that’s a bad thing as there are some excellent quality tea bags on the market today) having moved forward and being exposed to such exquisite blends and flavours of loose-leaf tea and being educated on how simple it is to infuse quality loose-leaf tea.

There has also been a slow increase in the rise of specialty tea stores around Australia which has made tea much more accessible and supermarkets have also cottoned on to the high demand of quality tea dedicating whole aisles to tea and tea ware.

So in general tea consumption is finally on the rise in Australia.

Photo by Wei-Hang Chua

You’re based in a part of Australia that is known for it’s wine, do you find (or do you encourage) customers to explore tea in the manner that wine was explored a decade or so ago.

Starting out in Australia’s wine state has been a positive when it comes to explaining the art of tea.

Tea has many similarities to wine right from the growing conditions i.e. soil content, rainfall, altitude above sea level, harvest times, oxidization, grading . Considering we are in one of most renowned foodie states, with excellent produce grown here, great wines produced here, unbelievable places to dine, it is only fitting that we can now offer amazing quality tea. Something that was totally overlooked on many menus across Australia up until recent times.

Tea tastings are closely related to wine where care is taken to infuse the leaf for just the right amount of time so as not to release the tannins, as with wine (even though the benefits of the anti-oxidants are released in the tannins), always looking for that smooth drop.

Australian consumers have really embraced tea and its culture so much that you will find our teas on the menus in many of the finest wineries in Australia alongside great wines.

When it comes to working in, and owning/operating a tea store what are the challenges.

We opened T bar in 1999 and yes it was a huge challenge introducing a ‘tea-salon’ to the Adelaide market where everything was predominantly coffee.

It was a slow, but fulfilling process making the consumer aware that there was finally a real buzz about tea and all of the different types of teas that were on offer.

I for one only thought that there was black tea and green tea, and knew little of the teas ‘in-between’ but have over the last 11 years probably completed many degrees on the subject of tea for which I will never receive any awards for on paper, but have received the gift of learning so much about this commodity, about the history, the leaf, the health benefits, how to market the product, that I am now so passionate about.

Having already had a background in hospitality made things a little easier to set up, but of course dealing with tea was completely new to me besides my own interest for tea at home, so everything from getting the water quality correct to how to infuse and educate the consumer took time to get perfect.

Finding the right tea producers has been interesting and very rewarding giving us the opportunity to travel and source reputable, ethical tea growers which is very important to us. Being both retailers and wholesalers of quality tea and tea wares means that we constantly need to have a huge supply of tea on hand therefore having money sitting on pallets, meaning that strict budgets must be enforced.

Are there any other tea retailers you look to for guidance or inspiration or does each local market present it’s own challenges.

I am always ‘in-touch’ with what my competitors are offering, whether it is online or interstate and I love purchasing from my competitors, as we are all known for our individuality and no two are alike, all having something different to offer which keeps the fascination going.

As previously mentioned travel has been one of the major benefits of being in the tea industry, allowing me to research other tea establishments and one of my most loved tea houses would have to be a French chain which I have had the pleasure of taking tea on a few occasions named ‘Mariage Freres Tea Emporium’ with stores located in Paris.

They have inspired me to constantly offer the Australian tea consumer a perspective on the ever-changing world of tea, by bringing it into the 21st century, yet also keeping the history and traditions alive.

Photo by Wei-Hang Chua

On a personal level, what does tea mean to you and what are your day-to -day tea rituals.

Tea really is a major part of my and my family’s life.

I personally was raised drinking tea, coming from a European background and having lost my father at an early age, our house was filled with predominantly women and my mother would serve mainly tea that she would infuse throughout the day. She had (and still has to this day) a wonderful ‘Typical Australian’ Bakelite tea dispenser that is in the shape of a baker man on the wall in her kitchen next to the stove and she would press a button that would dispense the just the right amount of black ‘Amgoorie’ tea into a teapot filled with boiled water which she would then add cinnamon sticks, cloves and aniseed producing this aromatic ‘chai’ that family and friends would all visit for. Everyone wanted and still does, a cup of ‘STELLAS TEA’. I too have raised my 4 children on tea and I am sure they will pass this tradition on to their families as it has been enriched with such wonderful memories.

This tradition of tea drinking led me to source interesting teas from around the world, which made my husband and business partners addicted to, and decided to open Adelaide’s first ‘tea-salon’.

To this day, we begin our day with a full-bodied black tea such as an organic English Breakfast or Highgrown Ceylon Orange Pekoe, or a smooth Darjeeling (Red Thunder) and end our day with either something aromatic or a delicate white tea.

There are no real rules as to when you should drink the appropriate tea, I believe it is all personal preference.

Do you have a favourite teaware designer or brand, or a personal favourite when it comes to the teaware you personally use.

Limoge (top) and Georg Jensen (bottom)

There is an abundance in beautifully designed tea ware on the market today, from the colourful and elegant Limoges, the sleek designs of Georg Jensen but what really does it for me is anything old and vintage. I have been an obsessed op-shop-aholic for most of my life and really love the philosophy of recycle-reuse and have found such interesting tea wares that you could not buy in a department store today. They are real treasures, from the old thermal lined ‘Ever-hot teapots’, to a very old silver teapot found in the flea markets of Athens or the good old Pyrex glass tea pots that keep the tea warm and you can see the leaf or the colour of the infusion.

These things to me just make the tea taste so much better than say drinking out of a mug, and I always wonder about the history of my old tea-ware, who it belonged to, what they spoke about whilst drinking, just as I always wonder about the history of tea and how it played a major part in the history of the world.

The rise in popularity of the English “high-tea” ritual has really encouraged the demand for beautiful tea ware that never ceases to amaze me. We really do need a tea museum in Australia!

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3 Responses to “tea and wine with peggy veloudos of t-bar tea salon, south australia”
  1. Megan says:

    Great post, makes me want to pop on over to Adelaide for a cuppa. I also love the glass tea pots where you can see everything brewing in there. They are so pretty!

    This is my favourite at the moment: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/__Q3nKbMoLN4/TUiPKRPtguI/AAAAAAAABBI/pGKca2wkPu0/s1600/paristeapot.jpg
    The 1 litre pots sell for $30 @ T2.


    • deb huff says:

      Thanks Megan! I totally agree with you on glass teapots, they are my favourite, I love seeing the leaves unfurl through the steamy glass (especailly oolongs!) As soon as I’m back in Australia, I’m off to T2 to buy one of those Paris pots, so beautiful!

  2. absolutely LOVE T-bar…I’d prefer it over T2 any day…

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