This week we stopped by one of the most a-peeling destinations on Hackney Road — Unripe Banana! I chatted with Flora, the woman behind this exciting combined cafe-gallery-studio space. Read on to learn about her mission to create an ethical, locally-minded space with accessible vegan coffee and treats.
How did Unripe Banana come about?
About three, three and a half years ago I was in my old flat and I only had bananas to eat. They were really unripe, and I remember eating one and thinking how gross it was. Then I said to my flat mate, “We’re kind of like unripe bananas. Rubbish at the moment but hopefully one day we’ll get there.” I started thinking about this place and things sort of developed from there.
How did you decide to start in East London?
I don’t know really, I only moved East this year. I was living in West London for ages. There’s just much more of a community, and arts and speciality coffee in East London. So it just made sense to me. I’ve met so many great people since I have been over here. People actually like people instead of just ignoring you or whatever. So it’s much more like home over here.
Have there been any local businesses in particular that have supported you?
Are you familiar with Mylkman? He’s the most amazing person. They’re all handmade nut milks and he delivers them around East London in a push bike.
Do you have a favorite local business?
I shop locally always. I have a select group of shops that I get certain things from. I get my bread from Pavilion and I get my groceries from a grocer around the corner. It’s a difficult question. I love them all.
Could you tell me a little bit about your art and gallery spaces?
This month we had Polly Smith, a fashion photographer. She collaborates with ethical fashion brands and that’s very akin to what this shop’s doing. We’re going to change over exhibitions monthly.
We’re going to be introducing a lot more evening classes and fun stuff. We’re going to have an illustrator and a makers’ market in December as well. We also do life drawing classes every Wednesday at 7:30, and we’re looking at doing other classes like a natural paint making workshop.
We also have space available to hire. We’ve got the gallery with the permanent shows, but it is available for other stuff too. Then we’ve got the studio spaces as well–it’s like a communal working space for artists. I work there when I’m not working up in the cafe.
What does the future look like for Unripe Banana?
Ideally, in two years time, we want to open another shop with a slightly different layout. I would like to have a space where the coffee shop and the art gallery are on one level. I’d also like to have a kitchen in the next one. We’ve already started looking — apparently opening one shop wasn’t stressful enough! Opening another space in Brighton is the goal after that. It has a similar feel to East London in terms of the arts scene, and the ethically-minded, local-minded community, so I think that would be a really good step. I’ve toyed with the idea of Glasgow and Edinburgh as well.
Also, I think that the combination of vegan speciality coffee and art studios is something that is definitely going to be growing. It’s nice to make it accessible I think. That’s why my coffee shop prices are the same prices as a normal coffee shop even though I use handmade nut milks and stuff. The focus is making everything accessible for everyone and growing this business as much as I can.
Why did you join Colu?
I just think that the ethics of what Colu offers is pretty much exactly what I want to offer. From a personal perspective, it’s great because, as I said, I shop locally anyway. So the Colu App is great for stuff like that, because you can just see where you are, what you can get and where you can get it, which is brilliant. It saves you a bunch of time. It helps you to be ethical without thinking about it too much.
I think it’s fantastic to support local businesses and it’s difficult, so I think that’s why I’m really happy that Unripe Banana is on there. I get really excited when people use the app here. It’s so easy and it’s exciting. People need to stop shopping at Tesco and drinking coffee at Starbucks, you know? It’s bad.
I’ve also discovered a lot of stuff that I would have never known was there. I just live around the corner, but even on my walk home, there’s stuff that I had no idea was there. It just makes me happy.
Whether you’re looking for your daily caffeine fix, a cool exhibition or a creative work space, Unripe Banana should be on your radar. To stay up to date on all they have to offer, check out their Instagram!