This time last year, we launched our exciting partnership with BOXPARK Croydon to help early-stage food entrepreneurs win a free pop-up residency for three months. Here’s an update on the finalists and how to get in touch with them, including a review from our Project Manager, Geoff Ranson.
Vee Tings – A ‘Fleeting’ Vegan Community Offering in the Heart of South Norwood
How often do you see an inspiring food venue and promise yourself you’ll go and visit as soon as you can but never do it straightaway?
That was my experience when I became aware of social enterprise café CommuniTea Café located on the high street in South Norwood. Having a busy work schedule and working only in Croydon one or two days a week, I didn’t get much time to go and visit and see what they were all about.
That is until one of the finalists of StartUp Croydon’s partnership project with BOXPARK Croydon, Amelia Matthew, opened a month-long pop-up residency of her plant-based African/Caribbean fusion food brand Vee Tings [Instagram] in the café in March 2023.
CommuniTea Café is a popular and calming little oasis and much more than your usual independent high-street coffee shop. Founded by Reem Al-Awadhi and Amina Malik in 2018, the café is host to a community hub, a vegan pantry and an atmosphere conducive to well-being, support and collaboration. Rustic wooden tables are cosily arranged around and alongside the main counter, which is adorned with coffee bean bags and jars of different teas with a view through to the small kitchen area.
Cookery and reading books are scattered around the café for those wanting to take a break from virtual worlds; board games are available for customers too who want to feel like they are enjoying a home-from-home experience. The food offering is developing, and the café is shifting to supporting local chefs to give them an opportunity to showcase and test their cuisines to a wider audience.
When I visited to try out Vee Tings’ offering, I was greeted with a range of enticing and mouthwatering dishes on the menu. Having savoured Amelia’s delicious culinary delights as part of the BOXPARK Croydon project’s taste tests, I knew I was in for a treat and after a difficult choice, I settled for the BBQ Jerk Tofu Wrap. Cubes of tofu had been carefully marinated in jerk sauce and cooked and combined with just the right amount of salad and shredded carrots which had been steeped in a warmly spiced vinaigrette.
The flat white made with oat milk that I ordered to accompany it was served in a glass tumbler like a cortado you get in some mainstream coffee chains. It was full and creamy and the first time I had tasted a coffee made with an alternative milk. What’s even better is that CommuniTea Café uses coffee from Pact Coffee – a sustainable and ethical coffee company sourcing beans directly from farms across the world, paying, on average, 60% above Fairtrade prices.
Feeling satisfied after lunch, I also bought a jar of Vee Tings’ fig and mango chutney, which is just one of a range of chutneys, vinegars and condiments made with love and care by Amelia.
Overall, the food and atmosphere were great and I would recommend a visit to CommuniTea Café to relax and take a moment from your busy day. As well as taking care of yourself, you’ll also be supporting local community projects and local food entrepreneurs.
And if this has whetted your appetite and you want to try out Vee Tings food for yourself, get on down to the café quick as Amelia has another pop-up during May and part of June. She will be there Thursdays to Mondays 10am-5:30pm [Instagram] .
If you are a food entrepreneur looking for a pop-up residency, get in touch with Amina or Reem at CommuniTea Café, 80 Hight Street, South Norwood, SE25 6EA communitea.co.uk
Other finalists and where to find them:
Soul Vegan UK – winner of the three-month pop-up residency, Soul Vegan UK was founded and run by sisters Jameelah, Karima and Tiana and provides delicious plant-based Caribbean street food with a hint of their Bermudan heritage. Find them here https://www.soulveganrestaurant.co.uk/ and on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/soulveganuk/
Mucuua – family-run plant-based Angolan street food offering can be found trading from Tuesdays-Saturdays in Surrey Street Market. They also offer event or regular office catering contracts. https://www.instagram.com/mucuaa_/
Fruiture Juicery – offers fresh, healthy and natural juices – check them out here https://www.instagram.com/fruiture_juicery/?hl=en. Watch this space for a potential return to Surrey Street Market!
TNK Catering – wholesome and healthy Caribbean food offering available for orders and delivery but also developing their brand of exotic juices made with health-giving sea moss, soursop and June plum through TN Natural Products https://www.instagram.com/tn_naturalproducts/
Caribbean Kitchen London – healthy Caribbean-based food offering a range of delicious dishes, including fried chicken in waffles, lobster tail rolls and sides of mac ‘n’ cheese, Jollof rice and much more. Find out more here https://www.instagram.com/caribbeankitchenlondon/