by Helen Kinsella on July 26th, 2016
Black Sheep Coffee is a small chain of London-based coffee shops that has become a bit of a talking point since they first launched in 2013. Lead by four young and passionate founders, with an aim to break away from all things mundane and every day, their shops are known for their inviting atmosphere and DIY aesthetic.
This summer, Black Sheep has added an exciting range of iced teas to their menu. And, never one to miss an opportunity to hear what our customers are up to, I spoke with Mithalee, their head chef, to find out more.
“LEAVE THE HERD BEHIND”
The ethos of Black Sheep Coffee is a prominent one, adorning everything from their website’s domain name to their paper takeaway cups: “Leave the herd behind” suggests a business not afraid to play by their own rules. Mithalee explains:
Our slogan “leave the herd behind” all began back when our four founders decided to collaborate on their shared passion for coffee. After meeting at university, they all went their separate ways and into corporate jobs but soon realised they wanted to pursue more with their careers, do something different and essentially ‘leave the herd behind’.
Although the coffee industry has been mostly dominated by Arabica beans, the guys wanted to stray even further from the traditional sense with their ‘Robusta Revival’. Coming up with the best flavour combination, whilst using Robusta, is a totally different angle to what most places are doing right now.”
By opting to use Robusta coffee beans over the trendy Arabica found in most coffee shops, Black Sheep has brought something to the streets of London that’s as rare and unusual as it is delicious. And when it came to selecting a range for their tea-drinking visitors, Canton was the perfect fit:
“We started serving Canton Tea when we opened our first actual shop (unlike our kiosks in the earlier days) in 2015 on Charlotte Street in Fitrzrovia. Though we are a coffee-led business, we wanted to be inclusive of the tea drinkers in our community as well. Canton seemed right for our shops because we felt the products reflected a standard of quality that we align ourselves with. Also, the variety of options was appealing to us and the customer service was great!”
The addition of a range of iced teas has been a welcome relief to thirsty commuters in London this summer. Using loose leaf Canton teas, Black Sheep has crafted a mouthwatering selection of cold brew infusions to suit a range of tastes:
“For the summer, we have launched an iced tea range that includes the Red Berry and Hibiscus, Elderflower and Lemon Verbena and Moroccan Mint. We sweeten these lightly with honey, but other than that the natural flavours of the teas itself provide robust flavour. We chose these teas specifically so we could have a variance in flavour profiles – Red Berry and Hibiscus is sweet and tangy, Elderflower and Lemon Verbena is lightly fruity and soft, and the Moroccan Mint is refreshingly minty. Our customers have been giving us great feedback on them!”
So for a business that arose from a shared passion for coffee, it’s safe to say that Black Sheep has quickly become a great place to grab a cup of quality tea in the capital. Customers can choose from an extensive range of teas and herbal infusions that include refreshing Jade Tips, fragrant Jasmine Pearls and sweet Rooibos. But if they had to pick a favourite? Surprisingly, the team prefer the traditional option:
“Our favourite has got to be the classic English Breakfast – just perfect.” Says Mithalee.
“It is such a common tea but not always does it have such a great balance.”
TEA IN THE CITY
Across the UK, and particularly in London, speciality coffee has exploded in popularity in the past decade, with young businesses like Black Sheep leading the way. And with a new generation starting to learn about lesser-known teas and the new flavours they bring, Mithalee agrees that speciality tea could soon experience a similar boom:
“Why not?! Everyday there are new flavours of teas coming out and new specialty tea shops seem to be opening everywhere in London! There is a certain ritual involved in drinking tea, similar to coffee and we feel that there is only going to be a rise in popularity.”
So after getting off to an incredible start, what can we expect to see next from Black Sheep?
“We’ve got a tonne of exciting stuff coming up for Black Sheep.” Says Mithalee. “As well as opening up another few shops this year, we’re also very shortly launching our ‘after-work’ concept; We’re working with some exceptional like-minded brands and people during this time and really excited to get going. We hope that we can take our loyal coffee drinkers with us into this next phase.”
Black Sheep Coffee serve a delicious range of teas, coffees and snacks, including lots of vegan and gluten-free options. Visit them at:
Great Portland Street tube station
Wood Street, St Pauls
As head of customer service here at Canton Tea, Helen is lucky enough to meet and speak to all kinds of trade customers every day – from prestigious hotels to tiny tearooms and independent delis. This is her first blog in a new series in which she places the spotlight on some of the more interesting Canton stockists out there. Look out for her articles and interviews over the next few months, and maybe next time you’re out and about, looking for somewhere to enjoy a cup of Canton, you’ll stumble across a new favourite!