Three years later, the roastery is reality and, earlier this month, she officially opened Curved Brick Co café in the clapboard building formerly occupied by Billy’s Carpets.
It’s been a gradual process. “When I started I was full time (working at Which?), roasting in the evenings and doing markets on weekends,” explains Marsha. “Last year we got the roastery and I went part time. We got the keys to the café six weeks ago, I resigned from work and left two weeks later.” The building needed a lot of work. “It wasn’t a retail unit so we had to do everything: me, my husband, my dad, we even had my five year old son painting.”
The exterior has been painted sky blue, while inside the walls are a warm, dark blue and are hung with framed prints of Curved Brick Co coffee labels. The focal point is a large vintage wooden counter. “I had a Pinterest board going and saw a picture of a coffee shop with a vintage counter and looked everywhere for something similar. I found this one in a reclamation yard in East Sussex. We stripped it back but left the corbels as they are, I liked the idea of being able to see what it was like before.”
A shiny new Faema coffee machine and a vintage wood-and-glass jewellery display case that’s been repurposed to house pastries sit on top of the counter. “[Vintage jewellery display cases] are hard to come by, they’re all being used in junk shops to display jewellery – I found this one in Whitstable.” The sunny yellow vintage tables and chairs were found on a weekend away. “I’d seen them online but they were collection only. We happened to be in Whitstable for the weekend, I checked the address and they were just up the coast, so we picked them up and lodged them in the back of the car with my son, the dog and all our gear.”Naturally the coffee is by Curved Brick Co. “We currently have three different coffees, all from tiny farms – 66 Clocks from Ethiopia, Slingshot from Guatemala, which I’m using in the café, and Electric Morning which is our organic one from Peru. Now my whole head is in coffee we’ll expand [the coffee offering] and we’ll do exclusives for the café.” Milk comes from The Estate Dairy and Minor Figures for oat milk.
Food currently comprises pastries, cakes and filled bagels. “We thought we’d keep things simple, but really good quality.” Suppliers are mostly super-local – bagels from Brick Lane, salmon from H. Foreman & Son, cheese from Froth & Rind. “I’m not going to be too slavish to the east London thing but the truth is that most of it is really good.” And #plantbased eaters will be catered for. “We’ll always have a vegan option, the idea is for meat eaters to want the vegan one.”
Expanding the food offering is still on the to do list. “We’ve done it without any startup funds, which is why we opened the door before everything was exactly how we wanted it,” explains Marsha. “[Local signpainter] Mia Warner is doing our sign and I’m having some coffee pots made by Smith & Goat, a Loughton-based couple I met when we did a Christmas market together last year.”
The café has been busy from day one and a steady stream of customers stop by for a caffeine fix and a sweet treat as we chat. Four legged friends are most welcome. “It’s doggy heaven in here on Saturday and Sunday mornings, people get up, take their dog out for a march, then treat themselves to a coffee. Then they head off, it’s not like it’s 101 Dalmatians all day.”
When Marsha first decided to start a coffee business her dream was for it to eventually be run from a railway arch, hence the name Curved Brick Co. “Instead I’ve got a wood-clad cottage,” she laughs. It might not have figured in her original plan, but we have a feeling she’ll do just fine here.
Main image: Miranda Eason