Firstly, we need to clear something up. Yes, Nottingham has tearooms; places where you can have afternoon tea, whilst eating off dainty china sets. Nothing wrong with that. But Bluebird Tea Co. is no tearoom. Instead, this is an exciting, innovative brand that already has four other stores across the country, a devoted fan base and steadfast social media following. And now, after flying the nest for several years, it’s finally back in the city where it all started…
Krisi Smith and Mike Turner started Bluebird Tea Co. back in 2013, following a stint working in Canada. Being impressed with the different variety of teas available over that side of the pond, Krisi and Mike returned home feeling inspired and energised: an idea was born.
Initially setting up in the back bedroom of her mum Andrea’s house in Nuthall, Krisi and Mike began to blend their own teas by hand; from there, they sold their loose leaf tea blends at local markets, including Not the Camden Market, at Barton’s, Chilwell, and started their own website. The year after, they opened their first store in Brighton, with Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, and Angel, London, shortly after. Flash forward to today, and they now have over 200 different tea blends, with 80 being on the shelves at any one time, and also sell an array of tea paraphernalia, including DIY tea cocktail kits, teapots, herbal infusers, vegan tea soap, solid perfume and more Christmas gifts than you could shake your baubles at. So, it’s fair to say that it’s been a busy four years then, yeah?
“It certainly has been busy, but it’s been my ambition to open in my hometown since we started Bluebird,” explains Krisi. “Nottingham might not be the biggest city, but it always gets behind new businesses. When I grew up in Nottingham, there were so many chains and big businesses, but over the last few years there’s been a real boom in smaller brands with amazing concepts, like Doughnotts, Oscar and Rosie’s, Boilermaker and our wholesale partners, Delilah, who we’re now based opposite.”
So, maybe a good time to drop a bit of a tea bomb… I don’t actually like tea, I somewhat bashfully explain. Luckily, she laughs.
“We have so many varieties - I promise there’s something for everyone!” she replies. Not properly won round just yet, Krisi starts picking teas off the shelves for me, asking what sort of flavours I like or dislike and letting me have a sniff. I have to say, they all smell pretty good, but eventually, we settle on two; the Gingerbread Chai, which, without sounding like I’m just saying this, is the best goddamn drink I have ever tasted whilst sober and the amazing Blue Raspberry, which makes all of my nineties childhood dreams of mood rings come true by changing colour. Witchcraft, I tell you. It’s fair to say that I’m a convert.
I ask Krisi which product she’s most excited about and she shows me their Gatsby-inspired advent calendar. You get a fair amount of kit for your 36 quid; it’s filled with matchas, solid perfume and 18 different teas. Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks so; the calendars are on pre-order and they’ve already sold 500. Not bad to say we’re still in October.
Opening last Friday, the Nottingham launch party saw over a 100 people come to wet the store’s head, with screen printing tote bags, ‘blend your own tea’ stations, tea-infused brownies and, of course, tea cocktails.
“It was amazing to be able to serve all our original customers from our market days in our shiny, new store. It’s all still really exciting for us, but it must be crazy for them to see us go from a stall to being where we are now,” continues Krisi.
“The support we’ve had here in Nottingham has been incredible. It’s good to be home.”
Fancy a brew? You can find Bluebird Tea Co at 5 Victoria Street, NG1 2EW.
Bluebird Tea Co website