Tucked away on Broadway Market in Hackney is a bustling cafe that sparks controversy on most busy Saturdays when groggy-eyed customers realise they can’t buy a much-needed coffee. That’s right, even in a capital of espresso-crazed city dwellers, Tiosk sticks firm to its ethos: tea.
Natasha Kelly, co-founder of Tiosk, sat down for an interview with Eastlondonlines and explained to us the story behind the founding of one of the few cafes of its kind in East London.
Kelly said: “My business partner and I both worked in fashion for many years, both for big corporate brands. We thought wouldn’t it be great if we could put this much into our own businesses? We decided to go away and come up with some ideas, some of which could be crazy and some of which could be the seed of something. And one of them was to do something with tea. We felt there was a gap in the market with tea.”
Kelly explained herself and her partner Nicola Simpson, as being women with business-oriented minds with roots in East London.
“I had a situation where I had some money that I could either use to buy a house for myself and the kids or to start a business. So rightly or wrongly I started the business and jumped. I’ve lived in this area for about 11 years now and this space was actually my local film rental shop.
“It has been a very organic process. We sold off the remainder of the DVDs in the shop to pay the rent and slowly but surely built up.”
She said that after years of travelling and working long hours in fashion, she found it very hard to switch profession and to track down a quality tea.
“With tea, many people still just grab a cup with some boiling water and throw in a tea bag like you would at home. The idea was to not have this situation and also not have a traditional tea ceremony, so to speak. So a kiosk mixed with quality tea.. and that’s where Tiosk was born.”
All of the teas at Tiosk are natural and without any additives. They have an expansive menu that has luckily been able to convert many coffee drinkers.
“The obvious one is the matcha latte and then we have a sunshine latte which is our speciality and goes to brew for 24 hours prior to serving. We also developed a latte for honey and then the ginger latte which is my favourite. We’ve got a roasted green tea latte coming up which is a nice exchange for coffee if you’re trying to not drink coffee during the day,” Kelly said.
Tiosk is more than a space to enjoy a tea or take your brew for takeaway. They have recently expanded their space into a shop instore and online.
Often the space is used to present works by East London artists and craftsmen. At Tiosk you can enjoy a hot tea, chat with friends and browse through some of their packaged teas and other homeware.
Kelly said: “As soon as we can afford to, we would love to go over to some of the plantations in Japan and India and collect some of their stories. That’s the thing – there are so many stories with tea.”
On the back of the packaging for their teas, you can find some of these collected stories. For Kelly, brewing and drinking tea has become a family affair. One of Kelly’s daughters even works behind the bar as a “tearista” a couple of days a week.
Kelly said: “We all have a tea habit whatever it might be. It could be as simple as having an earl grey every afternoon, but some people really have a ritual every morning or evening or even a matcha ritual.
“I say ritual because the act of making tea when you’re at home is a ritual. We want people to enjoy the moment and enjoy the process of making it and drinking it.”