Taste Talk: First-time cafe and shop owner Emily Wright


She's not even thirty yet but Emily Wright has already done what so many secretly dream of -- opening her own cafe and shop. She's the founder, manager and sole employee of T&SHOP in Newington Green in North London. She lives upstairs, bakes all the goodies and scours vintage furniture markets and local producers for quality stock. Oh and mere months after opening a Hollywood movie star has already become a repeat customer, while the local Turkish population has warmly welcomed the 29-year-old's impressive work ethic and ridiculously fragrant rose tea. Amongst all that she kindly took the time to talk with Tasting Pages, thanks Emily!   

How would you describe T&SHOP to people who've never been?

T&SHOP is a lifestyle concept shop with tea, coffee and food, where you can buy the chair you're sat on while having a cuppa.

When did you open T&SHOP?

It was born end of May this year and is still teething. It took about 9 months of prep so I feel like it is my baby; I imagine it to be emotionally similar.

How did the idea come about?

I have always loved tea... and cake. I like to host and bake and feed people, and I have a big family to practice on. I think I'd talked and dreamt about having a shop long enough that I had to make it happen and I realised I had nothing to loose and a lot of support around. Plus also to be honest, I had a big break-up shake-up!

When you first started out you were buying in some of the baked goods you sold, but now you are baking your own?

I now bake all the cakes, I try to do lots of gluten free options -- brownies made with ground almonds are heavenly -- and recently experimented with vegan, sugar free and gluten free baking... and the coconut and banana balls were born. I call them miracleballs! (Agreed, balls are so hot right now)

I make the granola too as I realised if I'm going to eat it everyday I'd better make it a bit healthier. I use coconut oil or almond oil instead of butter and agave syrup instead of sugar. I don't preach too much about it as I'm a sucker for a heart attack dinner but nutrition is important.

Anything savoury?

My piadina are very thin big wraps folded into triangles and toasted with lots of filling, I do three different ones each week; currently a chorizo, mushroom, cheese and olive tapenade; a smoked mackerel, beetroot, radish, quinoa and wasabi and a goats cheese, fig, honey, thyme and sumac.

I hear you've had some celebrity clientele already?……

Haha, yes. Keira (Knightley) and James (Righton, husband, in the band Klaxons) have been a couple of times. He loves a Tunnock's teacake and she gets a mallow. The London Marshmallow Company are based in Newington Green and do divinely delicious flavours. Kiera had Sicilian Lemon & Blueberry then Rosewater & Pistachio Praline. I got them in for the kids as they are so cute but the grown-ups eat them all!

What were you up to before you started slinging tea to stars?

I studied anatomy and physiology but always wanted a shop. I managed an artist, a charity and various boutiques. I also did visual merchandising at Joseph and at Browns. It sounds like a crazy mixed bag but they have all impacted on the shop.

You'd been living in the flat upstairs for a while... where were you initially hoping to open the business and how did end up right downstairs?

I moved here quite by chance, in haste, but had always ogled leafy Canonbury. I'd been looking around Camden Passage in Islington for premises. The shop downstairs from me was filthy and painted orange so it was a couple of months before I dared enquire. It took a fair bit of work -- I took up seven layers of shoddy flooring with friends and fam. My dad was a joiner so he replaced the staircase, my godson's dad did a full electrical rewire then I painted for a whole week. I was blessed with talented and/or willing helpers!

Green Lanes is well-known for its Turkish shops and community; have you had many Turkish customers and how have they received you as a fellow business owner in the area?

I had a few odd looks as I came and went in heels on my bike since I first lived here, but since I started work on the shop I think they saw my blood, sweat and muscles at work and softened up. They were leaping out of the shop to help me park the van and avoid crashing into their cars and the owner of the Turkish bookshop has been a great ambassador, giving me a Hoover as a welcome-to-the street present!
The Turkish love their tea, I do one with rose petals which has a pretty solid fan base. I love Turkish food and because I source many of the ingredients locally -- there is a wonderful fruit and veg organic shop on the corner called Green Lanes Larder -- there are lots of Mediterranean influences in my cooking.

What are you favourite places to eat and drink within walking distance of T&S?

Everything at Primeur; every morsel is exquisite. To go with the tea addiction I also love sherry -- I'm a premature granny -- and at Trangallan on Newington Green they do a sweet tapas with a sherry that's hard to beat.

Where do you source your tea and coffee?

The tea is imported from all over the world by my supplier in Dorset, the peppermint is grown in Hampshire and you have to smell it to know it's good stuff. Caravan supply my coffee beans, I used to live on Exmouth Market and saw the queues for their flat whites so there was no contest, everyone loves it.

Do you prefer tea or coffee? Or are there certain times of day you like one vs the other?

Definitely tea. I didn't drink coffee before, well only in an espresso martini. But Caravan's Market Blend is not acidic and slowly I've become an addict! I still start the day with an Earl Grey, then I have green tea, usually Sencha Genmaicha with lunch or in hot weather iced Matcha. But by about 3pm I'm ready for a coffee... and cake.

The price of quality coffee has really been escalating lately. How much do you charge and what would you consider too much to pay when you're out?

I charge £2 for an Americano and £2.50 for a cappuccino or latte. The cost of good coffee has gone up, as has milk; Fair Trade is worth it. I feel more duped paying £2.50 for a tea bag. My teas range from £2 for most to £3 for matcha or the flowering ones, but on my dad's recommendation I also do builders tea for £1. I'm not a tea snob, there's something for everyone and every mood. Sometimes I need a builders with sugar!

What inspires you to stock something in your shop? How have your edible sales been vs your furniture and other goods?

I'm sourcing as locally as I can -- the London Fields Soap Company happen to make soap with teas, I sell Dalston Cola -- although some Ukranian handmade sheepskin slippers have just arrived. If I can use the shop to support crafts people then that feels good... feel-good slippers! The furniture is reclaim, I love Kempton market at 6am! People are slowly getting the concept, so gradually the furniture, plants and accessories have been going alongside the lattes and babyccinos.

What do you find most challenging about owning your own business and being the only employee? How does it differ from what you expected?

DJing was the hardest part -- my hoochie music taste is not shop appropriate! I've now outsourced the playlisting!

As with every job it has its quiet days, but now the anxiety has died down, I let myself have a seat and eat and enjoy time in-between rushes. Sometimes I run out of something and have a mad dash to the shop but I try not to stress, customers are understanding, one even bought me ice when a rainy morning turned into a hot afternoon and everyone needed iced coffee!

It can be a little stir-crazy living upstairs too, but Clissold Park is my lifesaver and it's not as lonely as I'd thought it could be as I'm always chatting with people and have friends popping by constantly. I still have lots I want to develop and I need to finish painting but since I'm a one-man band I didn't want to spread myself too thin and run out of energy. The cafe side of things was a priority; now I'm looking forward to doing a little more shopping.

What's the most unusual request you've had from a customer so far?

Marry me, haha.

You're looking at T&SHOP in a year's time, what makes you smile?

Apart from that it's still here... people. I'll have a big party and thank everyone for all the support I've had. Hopefully I'll be able to see the improvements and be satisfied.

Lots of people dream of owning a 'little cafe' someday, what is your top piece of advice?

Just do it. Plan carefully, get tons of help but also try to do it your way, it's easy to get confused and put it off but it's worth it if you really want it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...