There are few products which sit alongside us as we experience the spectrum of emotions that is life. A cup of tea — whether sipped nervously during a job interview, enjoyed by a bride on the morning of a wedding, or made for a loved one travelling through grief — can do wonders in terms of silent communication. It was this love for tea and the connection it fosters that drove T2 co-founders, Maryanne Shearer and Jan O’Connor, to launch the business way back in 1996.
Within a year, the company was wholesaling into some of Melbourne’s best restaurants, a tactic that increased international recognition and appreciation. ‘T2 has come a long way from the early days, when the tea was hand packed in the back room of the Fitzroy store, to having a global network of suppliers and copackers,’ says Perdita Collyer, T2’s Global Supply Chain Manager. Today the company boasts 66 stores across Australia and a slew of global stockists sharing the brand and its tea to a worldwide fanbase. ‘With fast growth, we have found the need to be very forward focused in our planning, and to invest in our supply network early to ensure that we can keep pace with demand for our amazing products.’
This forward-focused attitude was present in 2004, when despite only 52% of Australians even using the internet (ABS), T2 chose to launch its online store. ‘We had only a handful of orders placed in that first year,’ admits Christian Shaw, T2’s Global Logistics Manager. Back then ‘orders were hand packed under very manual circumstances, relying on the keen eye for order accuracy.’ Despite the labour required, the launch focused the company on the customer’s overall online shopping experience, something Christian says is still ‘at the forefront of every decision-making process’. Today, ‘all orders are managed through our Warehouse Management System, that adds efficiency and accuracy to a fast-growing environment, while still keeping our “hand packed” traditions, ensuring that each and every T2 customer’s experience is still at the forefront of everything we do.’
It’s this absolute commitment to meet (and exceed) customer’s expectations that has led T2 to become a globally adored company. Yet it hasn’t come without its challenges, in particular attempting to sell a food item across various countries. ‘I think the biggest challenge has been when we expand internationally, as each market has different requirements, and the requirements continue to change as new legislation is passed in each market,’ says Perdita. ‘From a supply and brand perspective, this has meant a lot of work to navigate the different requirements and produce product that is compliant globally. Key to this has been our Quality and Compliance team, who work very closely with our Product team to ensure we tick all the boxes for compliance.’
Investing in expertise has been key. ‘Our biggest investment has been in people and systems,’ says Perdita. ‘Whilst Supply had always existed as a function in the business, it wasn’t until 2015 that we invested in expanding the team. In the last three years, we have grown our function within the business to help unlock value and opportunities as we expand our global footprint.’
If giving advice to budding food business owners, Perdita stresses that success results from finding the right suppliers and forming genuine relationships so that logistics, and consequently, customer experience is not left vulnerable. ‘Invest in passionate people and find a great network of suppliers — we are only as good as the experience we can offer our customers, and that starts with ensuring we produce a fantastic product and get it to our customers on time.’
With an ever-expanding fanbase and new teas coming out all the time, what’s next for this innovative and iconic company? ‘T2 loves to experiment which means we are always brewing up something new!’ says Chris Stanko, Lead Creative at T2. ‘With every cup we brew, we’re shaking up the way people drink tea, inspiring a global community of tea lovers to reimagine their world, sip by sip, cup by cup.’