Anyone for tea? With tea specialist T2 opening up in London, tea aficionados will be able to sample, smell and taste, in an industrial setting from Landini Associates.
Words by Emily Martin
Photos: Andrew Meredith
Sydney-based retail design and brand consultancy Landini Associates was founded in 1993 and despite being 'down under,' location certainly has not impacted the company's global client reach. 'A large proportion of our work is in North America, Europe and Asia,' says Mark Landini, creative director of Landini Associates. 'And as such we travel extensively. I am probably in or travelling through London several times a year.'
The company's client list, which encompasses names such as Loblaws, Amore Pacific, Hilton Hotels and Westpac Bank Australia, also includes Australian tea brand T2 after Landini Associates designed its warehouse studios in Australia last year. 'We've admired T2 for a long time so were delighted to be asked to get involved in the evolution of its retail format,' says Landini after T2 approached the practice to launch the retailer's first international store in London. 'This was the first T2 store that we designed though we have been evolving the brand for a while; toughening it up a bit and maybe taking off the polish. The mecca of uber-cool that is Shoreditch is the perfect location for this evolution,' he says.
Tea in T2's orange brand packets make a feature wall in the new store.
In Shoreditch's Redchurch Street the space features a raw, stripped interior that serves as an antidote to the polished slickness of traditional British tea houses, with the design is dedicated to celebrating the centuries-old art of making and drinking tea. Faced with the challenge of a small space with a low ceiling Landini opted for a tea library, rather than traditional 'shop', complete with its own bar as a way to overcome space issues. 'We focused on creating an intelligible space full of dark corners to intrigue,' Landini says. 'Probably the most significant thing we did was to catalogue and arrange the teas by type and arrange them with the size options available. Facing this is the brew bar, which runs along one wall and provides sample brews.'
A 30m-long tea library, housing more than 250 varieties of tea, immerses customers in a knowledge bank of blends from around the world. At the heart of the store tea-tasting stations and aroma tables invite customers to taste, touch, smell and compare the blends and fragrances. Transparent display counters made from layers of interwoven welded steel expose the inner workings of the drawers - from pulls to brass pipes, fittings and sinks. Tea-brewing methods are demonstrated here among an extensive range of tea wares sourced from around the world.
A bar provides the opportunity to sample the many different types of tea on offer
Encorporating T2's signature black palette also helped enable Landini to overcome the project's most difficult challenge, that of space management, as did the orange colour as featured in T2's tea packaging. Tea packets are used to create a striking wall of orange, interspersed with black packaging that catalogues the teas by type. A mirrored ceiling has the effect of doubling the range and space.
The stock is extensive but clearly displayed.
Opting for an industrial material palette featuring blackened, oxidised steel of the tea library offsets T2's trademark orange packaging; the metal interior extends out on to Redchurch Street and envelopes the front of the store, providing the brand's more 'roughened' image. Landini says: 'T2 has some elements that are part of its DNA and these are not negotiable. These include a black interior and the old Chinese newspaper wall covering.'
Passers-by get an intriguing look into T2.
Choosing blackened steel to display the tea, as opposed to painted MDF as featured in T2's Australian stores, allowed Landini to evolve some elements without eliminating brand identity. 'We've also added some graphic communications, cataloguing the different types of teas together and explaining how to brew,' says Landini. 'I think this unfolding of the "mysteries and magic" of tea will be an important part of the store's evolution. Like so many brands, they already do this very well online, but the retail channel is lagging behind this a bit. I think this alignment will be important in moving forward.'
The Shoreditch store marks the third successful collaboration between Landini and T2. A fourth, for New York, is in the pipeline.