Can you tell us about Hackney Herbal and the history behind this social enterprise?
Back in 2015, I was volunteering at a community garden and became really interested in growing and using herbs. I started running informal workshops to share with others what I had taught myself and realised there was a huge interest in herbs and also lots of people with interesting stories and knowledge about herbs across our Hackney community.
I also noticed that herbs were in abundance everywhere! Culinary, medicinal and wild herbs were growing in both private and community gardens and in parks and open spaces like Hackney Marshes.
I wanted to find a way to run more workshops and events for free without needing funding and so had the idea to harvest some of these herbs and make tea blends that could fund-raise for community activities. And so Hackney Herbal was born!
Since then we have set up a couple of growing sites, developed a range of herbal teas and built partnerships with a wide network of community organisations. Our social enterprise model enables profits from herbal tea, events and workshops to be reinvested into free community herbal courses.
We work in partnership with organisations like The Center for Better Health and City and Hackney Mind to deliver courses to people interested in learning how to grow and use herbs to support their mental health and well-being.
What is the mission behind this exciting community enterprise?
Our mission is promoting well-being through herbs. We use herbs to bring people together to share ideas, support each other and see how nature can have a profound effect on our health.
Our community courses aim to provide a preventative intervention to the onset of poor mental health as well as a pathway to recovery for those already suffering.
Our key outcomes follow the themes of health, education and community resilience.
We believe everyone should have access to herbs and so offer a variety of ways to get involved!
Can you take us through your everyday?
I have to admit my first tea of the day is a black tea!
Every day is different at Hackney Herbal but early mornings are usually spent getting on top of emails.
Some days I might be out in the gardens, others I’ll be meeting new community partners or running community workshops.
If I’m in the studio, I might be getting ready for a workshop or an event or creating a bespoke tea blend for a client.
I’m happiest when I’m talking to people about plants and sharing the magic of herbs to those eager to listen.
Can you tell us the most moving experience that you’ve had through Hackney Herbal?
Some of the most moving things I’ve experienced I can’t share because they aren’t my stories to tell, but I always feel very moved when we do group feedback with participants on our community courses who share which parts of the course they have enjoyed the most.
It also fills me with joy when I bump into course members buying herbs at Food For All and telling me that they are going to make the remedies that they learnt how to make during one of our courses.
What is the process behind the making of your products?
Our herbal tea blends are devised by considering the flavours of different herbs but also the effect that they have on the mind and body.
Some of our blends are designed around themes and concepts. When we started out the blends were centered around the herbs that we could grow in bigger quantities but now that we also source herbs organically we can experiment with a much wider selection.
When I’m blending I start off with an idea and mix between three and six herbs in equal quantities to check the taste. Then I’ll swap in some different herbs to create the right balance, before adjusting the quantities of each individual herb.
Then there is lots of tasting, feedback and tweaking before arriving at the perfect blend.
What is your favourite Hackney Herbal Tea Blend?
This is such a difficult question! I do love the Calming blend. It’s something that I have been drinking myself for years. I always have it when I’m feeling stressed and tired and at the beginning of a day when there is lots to get done and not enough time!
Running a social enterprise that I’m passionate about makes me prone to overwork and burnout, so this blend with its mix of sedative and nervine herbs helps me during those moments when I’ve pushed myself a bit too much.
What was the last thing you bought?
A new kettle for the studio!
What is your life motto?
Do the best you can and everything will be ok.
What’s next for Hackney Herbal?
We’ve got our eye on a new garden site in Hackney Wick. Fingers crossed we will have our own home very soon!
What do you think makes a good company?
Purpose is so important! Being clear about why you do what you do is a great way to find people that understand your values and want to be part of your mission.
Can you describe your workplace?
Our cosy studio is full of jars of dried herbs, infusing oils, essential oils and things being concocted so it sometimes feels a bit like an apothecary!
We are blessed with a huge south facing window so it’s always light and bright and the window ledge is a great place for us to get our seedlings started.