Meet Rachel Ho, Founder of Tottenham's Craving Coffee
“Coffee isn’t just for caffeine geeks anymore,” says Rachel Ho. With her husband Matt, the Australian-turned-north-Londoner has supplied Tottenham with coffee, craft beer and creative pop-ups since 2014, when Craving Coffee opened in Gaunson House on Markfield Road.
This warm-hearted husband and wife team could tell you all about beans and brews (yes, they take a coffee grinder on camping trips), but South Tottenham’s community spirit is what fuels their café. “We were a couple of weeks from having to liquidate when we launched the crowdfunder,” Rachel remembers, thinking back to spring 2020 and the UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown. Within 24 hours they’d raised two-thirds of their £25,000 target. “The community support reminded us why we’re doing this,” she says.
Now in a new home in Ten87 Studios, with even more space for good food and good music, Rachel and Matt talk to us about Tottenham’s independent spirit and Craving Coffee’s Asian-fusion menu.
Rachel, you’re from Adelaide originally. What brought you to Tottenham?
Rachel (R): Matt and I lived in Canada for a year, and when we went back to Adelaide, we just wanted to travel. My dad’s from Manchester so I had a dual passport, and my sister was living in Tottenham. We moved to London in 2010 with the intention to stay until the 2012 Olympics, and here we are. We’ve bought a flat, opened the business, had a child and got a dog.
Tell us about your decision to open the café in 2014. How did your backgrounds feed into your new venture?
Matt (M): I’d been working in the coffee industry for about 10 years when we opened. I’ve always loved coffee, and when we moved here I got a job at Climpson & Sons, just at the moment speciality coffee was booming in London. I went from barista to production manager to trainer to sales and then onto a bigger company. In sales, I found that a lot of cafés weren’t doing it for the love, so I figured I’d try this for myself.
Rachel’s background is in disability support, but we were both in bands too. She did promotion and events management, and eventually ended up helping out with events at Climpson. That was her stepping stone into hospitality, and not long after that we took the plunge with Craving Coffee. There wasn’t anywhere like it in Tottenham at the time.
The Craving philosophy “aims to bring people and creativity together.” How do you put that into practice?
R: It helps that we’re located in South Tottenham’s creative hub. At Gaunson House, there were musicians, furniture makers, set builders, theatre performers, architects. We put on more than 50 exhibitions in our time there – most by local artists, a few from farther afield, a couple by our staff and one by my sister – she’s part of Zone Arts, which supports emerging Tottenham artists. We ran street-food pop-ups as part of Tottenham Social, as well as poetry nights and International Women’s Day events. Our new place is in Ten87, a music-focussed site with recording studios and producers. We’ll be a lot more music-focused in our programming moving forward.
Your Asian-fusion menu is pretty experimental. What inspires the dishes you make?
R: Matt is half Singaporean and grew up with Southeast Asian food as a staple. From time to time he’d done his own pop-up at the café and it was always really popular, so we’ve brought those Asian flavours into our menus at Ten87, but kept that traditional café element. So you’ll find full English ramen, cheddar croissants with chilli oil and hoisin brisket hash. Ingredients are sourced locally from London, and ideally from Tottenham. The hoisin jackfruit is my favourite. But ask me when I’m in a different mood and I’ll probably give a different answer.
What inspired the move to Ten87 Studios? And what’s the new space like?
M: We started Craving Coffee around the same time Rob Burn launched Ten87 Studios, and we’ve grown up as companies together. There’s a lot of trust there. A tenant at the studios didn’t make it through the pandemic, so Rob asked if we wanted to move in. The new space is bigger, which is so important now, and it was a great opportunity for Craving to grow. Inside, we’ve blown the budget on design. We wanted to step up from our last place, to push the boundaries on that warehouse vibe, make it a bit nicer. Half the place is clad in beech, there are sage-green tiles made in Italy, and we’re having booths built by a local carpenter.
Any other small businesses we should get to know on or around Markfield Road?
R: There are a lot of independent businesses doing great things in Tottenham. Matt’s always going to The High Cross, a pub in an old toilet block – I don’t know how they manage to bring that sort of food out of the tiniest kitchen. There’s True Craft on West Green Road, a sourdough pizza place, and Table 13 does brilliant wines.