By Melissa Keogh
Black or green, a dash of milk, a squeeze of lemon or a dollop of honey, and what about that crooked pinky finger?
Ask Adelaide’s tea queen and I Choose SA ambassador Peggy Veloudos about the do’s and don’ts of drinking the world’s second most widely consumed beverage and she’ll say “each to their own”.
After 20 years of dedicating her life and her business to the world of tea, the co-founder of Adelaide’s T BAR Purveyors of Tea knows just about every possible way people all over prefer their cuppa.
However, she has one or two hard-and-fast rules when it comes to tea – including never “corrupting” a green, herbal, white or fruit tea with milk. Nonetheless, for Peggy, tea drinking is a universal soul soother.
“Over the last 20 years I’ve discovered so many beautiful teas,” she says.
“When we first decided we were going to open a tea shop, I thought ‘wow, what a world’. It was so intriguing and I kept learning so many things about it. There’s about 5000 different teas that have been named in the world.”
T BAR has a retail presence in the Adelaide Central Market and in Rundle Place, with a team of about 15 employees across both stores and a warehouse at Torrensville, 10 minutes from the CBD.
Peggy co-founded the small business in 1999 alongside her husband John, her brother Tony George and his wife Kate.
John and Peggy had owned Zuma Caffe in the central market for about seven years when they noticed a vacant retail space down the way, presenting the perfect opportunity for Peggy to share her tea passions with Adelaide.
T BAR was Adelaide’s first tea salon, selling 120 blends and varieties sourced from all over the world.
“We source really good black teas and some great green teas from pristine, beautiful tea gardens in India and Sri Lanka,” Peggy says.
“We also get oolong tea from Taiwan, while here in Australia we have a few tea gardens, including in Victoria and the Daintree region in Queensland.”
About 40% of T BAR’s business is about retail and online sales while the rest is in the wholesale market, selling to independent supermarkets across SA and interstate, and to restaurants, cafés and hotels.
In 2017 T BAR began supplying to the Australian-owned café Abbotsford Road in Brooklyn, New York.
So whether the tea is delivered to a residential mailbox in Poland or is sipped by a New Yorker in a cosy café, Peggy says she’s proud to call T BAR’s home Adelaide.
“We haven’t overexerted ourselves with having franchises everywhere, we’ve remained small and really pride ourselves on quality,” she says.
“We have a reputation that we’ve built up over the years and we’re very customer orientated.”
Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) like T BAR are the backbone of the South Australian economy, with more than 140,000 of them making up the state’s biggest employment sector.
Like many of SA’s successful small business ventures, T BAR’s roots began in the family home and was born from a mixture of tradition and passion.
Born in SA to Greek migrant parents from island of Cyprus, Peggy’s family lived in a suburban home where the kettle was always boiling.
Peggy’s mother Stella would regularly brew Bushells and Amgoorie tea with a stick of cinnamon, aniseed or cloves.
“When we were quite young my father passed away. In a widowed migrant woman’s world men didn’t visit as much anymore, so there was never alcohol on the table,” she says.
“It was mostly women coming to visit and Mum would always have a pot of tea on the go. It was very aromatic and everybody loved that tea, I loved that tea.”
Peggy travels the world to source the highest quality teas, from the common black, green and white teas to oolong and pu-erh teas.
She sips on about six cups every day, starting off with a quality English Breakfast in the morning before moving onto a pot of blended tea throughout the day, and finishing off with a white tea before bed.
She urges tea lovers to choose high quality tea at the checkout because it’s made with more love.
“When you’re buying from a boutique teahouse, you know that they pride themselves on quality,” Peggy says.
“With a high quality tea you’re not going to get the bitterness and the tannins. Pay a little bit extra, you’ll also use less (tea leaves) because it goes a long way.”
Peggy’s says T BAR’s success in SA is because of the state’s loyal customer base.
“SA is a great place to start a business and after 20 years, we’re still passionate about what we do,” she adds.
To gain more insight into SA’s SME sector, join Brand South Australia’s Industry Briefing on April 10. Click here for more information.
I Choose SA for Small to Medium Enterprise stories are made possible by Bendigo Bank:
Visit I Choose SA for Industry to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.