Teapot Cafe brings pay-as-you-feel menu to Ipswich and helps to reduce food waste in the town
18:00 16 February 2016
A hot chocolate, a biscuit and a sit are a welcome respite from the cold January air whipping through the streets of Ipswich.
And at The Teapot Café at PJ McGinty’s, in Northgate Street, the welcome is always warm.
Volunteer Sarah Sharlott said: “Everyone is welcome here and everyone gets treated in the same way, with high standards of service and a friendly atmosphere.”
But The Teapot is different from other cafés – you don’t even have to pay for your food.
Today, on the “pay as you feel” menu there are daily specials – including hot dogs and an apple pudding.
Sarah said: “The concept of the café is to reduce food waste. We get food donated from a variety of sources and we try to make sure nothing is wasted.”
Affiliated to The Real Junk Food Network – a growing and global organisation of pay as you feel cafes which abide by the movement’s motto “feed bellies, not bins” – The Teapot café is run by a team of volunteers like Sarah.
The café is the brainchild of mother-of-one Mischa Pearson.
The 29-year-old spent some of her teenage years in hostels.
She said: “I know what challenges some youngsters face, particularly in terms of drugs and crime. I worked in the catering industry and it became a family to me and I wanted to help give other people that same chances I had.”
Using her savings Mischa negotiated the use of the premises – an old stable storeroom – and invested in the café to get it going.
She said: “I wanted to create a place where people from all parts of the community could come and eat together.
“I read an article about the real junk food project and I felt inspired that we could have something like that in Ipswich.”
Relying on social media and word of mouth for advertising, the Café now has around 100 customers a week and is run by a team of around 20 volunteers opening from Tuesday to Saturday .
Sarah, 53, said: “People come here and ask us for advice and it has evolved very quickly into a social enterprise where the community can come together and help each other out.
“The aim is to break even.”
Supported by a number of retailers and restaurant chains, the café cooks food that would otherwise be thrown away.
Mischa said: “A huge amount of food is thrown out. But generally you can use food beyond its best before date. Most supermarkets throw food out before or as it reaches the best before date but there is no reason why that food should be thrown away, particularly when there are hungry people who don’t have food.”
And at The Teapot little is wasted and the menu changes every day. Mischa said: “We offer support to people as they go through the next step of rehabilitation back into main stream society. It isn’t about making a profit, but more about what we can do the community.”
The kitchen itself has a grade 5 food hygiene certificate as well as the advantage of volunteer trained chefs.
Mischa added: “People have been very generous with donations of money and food which keep us going. We are very proud of what we serve to customers.”