Tall Poppy Foods is the favourite new food shop of students in Selly Oak. Situated on the Bristol Road opposite the Tesco petrol station, Tall Poppy Foods serves piping hot, Fairtrade coffee and hot chocolate as well as a dazzling range of muffins, cookies, wraps, soups, burgers and much much more. I was lucky enough to be invited on Monday morning to speak with owner Erin about her company, her ethos and her plans for the future. Turning up at the shop window in the pouring rain at 9am, I was ushered inside, offered coffee, breakfast and a seat in a little room behind the shop for our interview. I must admit, rather sheepishly, that while I took the offer of a cappuccino gratefully, I declined the offer of a muffin on the personal opinion that it was a little early for food, a decision I later regretted as we started to talk about the menu!
As readers will be aware, I’m an avid baker so my first question to Erin concerned the muffins, cupcakes, ‘show-stoppers’ and cookies that she makes by hand daily. Her flavours are always changing which means I have to keep taste testing (such a shame, I know) but having never tried baking a vegan cake before, I couldn’t imagine not using eggs. So, how does she achieve such perfection? ‘It’s taken a lot of testing’ was the response; teamed with a laugh and the smile that remains on her face for the entire interview. Discussing recipes, I was suddenly struck by the fact that my cappuccino couldn’t possibly contain conventional milk and yet it was as good, if not better, than any coffee I’d had previously. Soya milk is the main alternative served at Tall Poppy Foods however almond milk is available for those wanting protein shakes and smoothie mixes – the shop is next to Shapeshifters so there is definitely a market for protein packed food and drinks.
Once conversation finally, albeit reluctantly, moved from cake, we started to discuss the ethos behind the company. Erin and her family follow a vegan lifestyle and I asked how she felt about advertising that fact and whether she felt it was the most important aspect of her catering. The conclusion reached was almost instantaneous, ‘People who follow a vegan lifestyle will find us by choice, everyone else simply needs healthy food that tastes great’…and I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes people can be overwhelmed and put-off by the idea of food missing conventional ingredients so having the simple advertising but providing classic meals and tasty treats with a twist, attracts the widest audience possible…and my word does it work! Tall Poppy Foods are currently in the UK’s Best Vegan Awards shortlist for ‘Best Caterer’ so we shall watch out for the results in the next month and hopefully I will be publishing a celebratory photograph and article. It certainly would be a great accolade for a company who have only been in Birmingham for three months. I asked Erin how she was enjoying being in Selly Oak (‘very much!) and whether there were any plans to have a larger premises in the future. The replies were so positive that if you told me even next week there was a cafe up and running under the name Tall Poppy Foods, I’d honestly believe you! Though logically I think there’s a lot to take in for the moment without that added pressure. Things are finally coming together for Erin after a brilliantly busy opening period. The new website went up on Monday and has a sophisticated edge, filled with photographs that make the mouth water just looking at them. The official menus should have been delivered by the time this article goes to print however I have had a sneaky look through the version online.
With meal deals costing only £5 for hot food, crisps and a drink, it’s a perfect choice for lunch on the way in to (or out of campus). I can recommend first hand the jack fruit burger which is delightfully unique and utterly delicious, inspired by Erin’s time spent living in Thailand. The coffee is divine and the new hot chocolate is sublime. There is also a 10% discount for those who check-in while at the shop. Moving the conversation to one of my favourite topics – Halloween – Erin sheepishly says that she has been unsure whether or not to decorate her window but insists that there will be Halloween specials, I caught a whisper of pecan pie and pumpkin soup but I wouldn’t want to excite anyone too soon. I continued to drop hints that decoration was essential so I challenge you all to look out for cobwebs at the window and bats hanging from the ceiling!
We turned momentarily to plans for Christmas but sensing Erin’s excitement and knowing my potential to talk for hours on the subject, I moved back to the show stopper cakes – visible on the website (www.tallpoppyfoods.co.uk). ‘They’re still going!’ she smiles, ‘I prefer to have people get in touch with me by email to discuss the cakes though’ – presumably because the designs are extraordinary and very complex. With dozens of us turning 21 every month in Selly Oak I can certainly see an avenue for coming-of-age cakes! Tall Poppy Foods are a gorgeous company and the staff are all behind the ethos of providing great tasting food that has the added benefits of being healthy and vegan. ‘We have pens in the kitchen and I came in to find staff doodling poppy designs onto the paper bags, it was brilliant’ Speaking to a member of staff later in the day it was clear that she loved the business and was full of her own ideas and suggestions – not that Erin is lacking in them herself! Repeatedly we discuss ingredients and covered the fact that the coffee is Fairtrade, the produce organic, locally sourced and that everything is homemade. Again and again we both return to this point, until I began to take it for granted and was shocked on returning to reality that food could possibly be anything other than 100% natural and locally produced. Leaving Erin, I felt inspired and full of her infectious excitement for the future of Tall Poppy Foods. As students we’re always looking out for the next big (food) thing and I can say quite easily, that this is it!