Something’s brewing in Tooting as world’s first tea pub comes to south west London

In a bid to bring back quality British tea, the world’s first ever tea pub has opened in Tooting.

Setting its sights on restoring loose leaf tea back onto British menus, Brew, a quaint café come rustic pub, was opened in May this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign which raised £180,000.

Serving ethically sourced loose leaf brews using beer-style tea brewing taps, the exciting venture also offers a quirky cocktail menu that includes classic flavours, with a bit of a twist, such as Earl Grey & Tonics and English Breakfast Martinis.

Brew’s Founder, Alex Holland, said: “[Brew is] a place that serves exceptional tea, but instead of being in a starkly lit café, it has the rich atmosphere of a pub.

“Brits drink twice as much tea as coffee each year, but on the high street it can be hard to get a cup of tea that tastes great.”

Holland, an ex-journalist and Lambeth Labour Councillor, came up with the idea of Brew when sitting in a Brixton café which still served loose leaf tea, not teabags.

“What does it say about Britain, a nation defined by tea drinking, that we accept the worst possible quality as normal?” Holland said.

“British people should be able to take just as much pride in tea as an Italian does in coffee or a Frenchman wine. We want everybody who calls these islands home to take pride in this drink that unites us.”

And as if the project couldn’t get any fresher, it has teamed up with Switchback, a resettlement charity that helps ex-offenders get back into work.

Set up in 2008, Switchback was conceived when founders Alice Dawnay and Slaney Wright believed there was little opportunity available to young men, particularly those aged 18-30, when leaving prison.

The charity started working with offenders returning to Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets on leaving prison. Now, nearly 10 years later, it is a pan-London charity that works with ex-offenders all across the capital.

“Switchback is the opposite to crime. We don’t encourage shortcuts. It’s about doing things differently,” said Richard Hurst, Switchback’s Head of Delivery.

“Our goal here is to support our Trainees to create a new default; a new way of responding to situations in their lives. A large part of that is helping them to get into work. They might want to be a builder, architect or a chef. Whatever it is, we help them get there.” he said.

“It boils down to having an open and serious conversation about why they want to change. We are always very honest. Change is boring, it sucks and it can be painful at times, but if you really want to give this a go, and if you really want to change your life for the better, then you need to know what you are signing up for.”

The latest Ministry of Justice figures state that the re-offending rate is 44% — for Switchback Trainees it is just 9%. The charity, who also collaborate with Leon, Roast and Searcy’s, are aiming to work with 48 Trainees this year, all of whom they meet three months before their release date. Over half of Switchback Trainees move on to secure a permanent job.

Brew is an exciting and innovative experiment with a forward-thinking approach to the social difference a private business can make. It takes huge pride in the nation’s quintessential drink, and it’s a quirky concept that’s bound to be a success. Now, anyone fancy a cuppa?

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