Space for Ideas: Emilie Holmes, Good & Proper Tea

19 Jun 2015

Good and Proper Tea

Emilie Holmes is the founder of loose-leaf tea brewers and traders Good & Proper Tea. They source teas from around the world from single estates or collectives, always looking for something that’ll stand up without blending or flavouring. Best known for serving brews from their iconic flagship Tea Bar, a 1974 Citroen van, they also sell their full range of teas and teaware online and will be opening their first G&P Tea House in London this Autumn. To mark the launch of our Space for Ideas competition, we interviewed Emilie to find out how she turned her passion into a way of life.

What was the moment you decided to commit to making Good and Proper Tea happen?

The idea had been niggling away for a very long time so I had been doodling tea shops, packaging and logos for years, but I guess it was the moment when that niggle started to take up more and more of my head space that I knew I would have to make it happen. I knew I had to make time to explore how exactly I would go about it, so went down to working just 3 days a week in my job in advertising in order to work on the business plan the other 2. It wasn't long before I was itching to get going and made it full-time...

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Being able to make and serve someone a delicious cup of tea and seeing them take their first sip. The best customers are those who approach asking, disinterested, for 'just a breakfast tea' , we then make them a rich, malty Assam and they leave saying 'yum, this is a great cup of tea, what is it?' That is the starting point for most and the beginning of an exciting journey of discovery. Supermarket tea bags after that just don't cut it.

What is the most useful lesson you've learned so far?

That it's true what everyone says, cash really is king! And not to worry that everyone else knows better than you. Ask for advice, listen to others but then trust your instinct and go for it.

How valuable is a physical retail presence for your brand?

For us, and for where the tea market currently is, I think it is very important. It is a very experiential product - the smell, the touch, the shapes of the leaves is all very sensual. But more importantly, we need to change the way the UK feels about tea and the theatre of brewing and allowing them to try the product and taste the difference in store will play a really important role in that.

What makes a great retail experience?

Passionate staff, a great product and very simply creating a space where people want and like to be.

What are your favourite shops and why?

Too many to name but off the top of my head..Labour & Wait on Redchurch Street for all of its lovely trinkets, tokyobike because they gave our Brew Bar a home (!) and their space and bikes are beautiful, Ozone Coffee for it's 360 counter bar where you can watch the chefs make your breakfast with military precision and most recently Artilleriet in Gothenburg because I want everything in there from the notebooks by the till, the lights on the walls and the tables and chairs in between.

One piece of advice to someone looking to launch their own company?

Think about doing it, think about it again, think about it even more and if you still can't let it go then go for it and don't look back. It'll be an emotional rollercoaster so be sure to surround yourself with people that will support and encourage you, as well as take your mind off it now and again!

Apply to win a free shop in Central London and make your idea happen