Last year I interviewed Alex Holland about his Tea and Alcohol tea cocktail pop-
up and loose-leaf tea company The Real Tea People. A few months later Alex
has returned with a new company name – Albion Tea and Brew, a pub for tea, which is currently raising funds on Crowdcube.
Teaxplorer: What is Brew, a pub for tea?
Brew is a place with the atmosphere of a pub but instead of offering pints of beer, serving pots of tea. As well as serving loose-leaf throughout the day, at night it will provide tea cocktails like our Earl Grey and Tonic or Lapsang Old Fashioned.
Brew will also serve light food and cakes matched to the flavours of the teas. We want to take back the high street for tea and that begins by treating tea like a serious drink.
Teaxplorer: And why are you doing it?
Tea is more than just a drink in Britain, it’s part of who we are. That we’ve let it get to the stage where the teabag, the worst possible way to drink tea, has become the dominant one shows we’re not only failing to take pride in this drink, we’re not taking pride in ourselves by doing so.
We want everybody up and down this country to take pride in real tea. That’s why we changed our company name to Albion Tea. Albion was the name William Blake used to describe Britain.
Blake was against a Britain of unthinking orthodoxy, oppression and the growing worship of machines or the ‘dark satanic mills’ as he called them. He believed in an Albion of human dignity, craft and creativity. For us getting rid of the teabag, something which destroys the beauty of tea for the sake of a false concept of ‘convenience’, by championing the human skill of making loose-leaf is something we feel Blake would have approved of.
Teaxplorer: So why a ‘tea pub’ and not a tea room or salon?
Knowing that a number of people had tried to create more accessible alternatives to the hotel tea room with limited success, we did a Human Centred Design process to find out what would work more broadly. What we found is that the perception of tea as this twee, bad quality, joke drink was so strongly ingrained with many people that for them to embrace loose-leaf we needed to present it in a way that was radically different from what had gone before, but that still drew on a sense of Britishness. That’s why the Tea Pub.
It drew on this feeling that what we were trying to do was a bit like the Campaign for Real Ale. CAMRA challenged the dominance of mass-produced, homogenous, poor-tasting beers by championing the flavour and diversity of their drink. Part of what helped real ale come back was ale pubs which took pride in how they stored, served and presented the drink. Brew wants to create a place which treats tea in a similar way, with respect.
Teaxplorer: What type of teas are you going to use and how are you going to source them?
First and foremost Brew’s teas will be flavoursome. Secondly all the teas will need to treat their growers with dignity. You can see more about this on Brew’s Statement of Principles on the Crowdcube site.
Brew will have six core teas and two rotating guest teas to choose from. The guest teas we use will always promote suppliers who have compatible values to Brew when it comes to sourcing.
I’m thinking of suppliers like Postcard Teas, The Rare Tea Company, Canton Tea, Lalani and Co to name but a few. I personally have been inspired by the years of hard work these companies have done to champion loose-leaf.
I know there have been conversations by some within the loose-leaf community about how to coordinate promotion of loose-leaf over teabags as a whole. I’d be honoured for Brew to contribute to that.
Teaxplorer: When do you plan to open?
We hope to open the first Brew this Autumn in Balham, in South London. Then in 2017 we’d look to open the second Brew in a different part of London to prove it can work in a different type of area, probably around Old Street.
Once that’s been going well for a year or so we’d look to raise more finance to expand rapidly across London with a target of ten across London in four years and another ten franchised out across the country in places like Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh, Leeds.
Teaxplorer: Why franchise?
We want everybody across the whole of this country to be able to take pride in tea, to treat it like a serious drink. To do that we need to scale across the whole country and one day beyond. Franchising helps to achieve this.
We want Brew to be a chain, but a chain with a difference. We will champion better ways of growing and small growers like Pallab Nath in Assam. Unlike most of the other small tea growers in his region, Pallab doesn’t sell his leaves to the local factory, he processes them himself. This means they are much better quality and that he keeps more money for himself, his family and his community.
We will also partner with charities like Switchback and give opportunities to ex-offenders like Pellum who was our first hire for the pop-up.
Teaxplorer: So finally how can people invest in Brew?
For all of this to happen we need people to share our crowdfund and spread the word. If they like what we are about and want to invest in us we’d be honoured to have them join the fight to take back the high street for tea.
Brew’s Crowdcube Link: www.crowdcube.com/brew