An Interview with Joanna from Nue Ground
nue | ground strives to be at the forefront of cafes contributing to a more sustainable food future, where ‘health’ – including our bodies, minds, communities and environment – is at the heart of what they do.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Joanna and talk all things Nue Ground, Sustainability and more...
Hi Joanna, thanks for chatting with us! Firstly, can you take us back to how Nue Ground all began?
My husband Jayke and I opened several South London venues such as Brickwood, WC and Old Town Tavern, Joe Public before nue ground, so had extensive experience in hospitality. However nue ground was a particularly personal project as it took a lot of inspiration from my childhood. Growing up in a household where everything was homemade and homegrown gave me an early appreciation for knowing where our food and other resources such as clothing comes from, and whose hands it has passed through along the way. My mother was passionate about natural health and medicine, and I was brought up eating nutritious meals, making natural remedies and fermenting food long before they became popular. This has always been a way of life for me and so I wanted to create a café that incorporated this ethos, and which made more personally, socially and environmentally healthy choices approachable and the norm. The goal was to create somewhere where every detail of the business had been carefully thought through to support a more sustainable food future, setting an example to the industry, sharing our knowledge and bringing our customers along for the journey!
It is great to see how sustainability plays a large role in nue ground, why is sustainability so important to you?
Sustainability is such a widely used concept these days, but the way we think about sustainability at nue ground considers the wellbeing and future of ourselves as individuals, our community, and the physical environment. All of these things are so important and rely on one another. Sustainability isn’t about making one-off sustainable choices – it’s about sustaining these choices over the long term and sustaining the pace of change. As a café, we have a responsibility to set in motion responsible sustainable practices and it’s great to see customers pick up the sustainable practices we use in our café and incorporate them into their daily lives.
Your cafes are beautiful. What was your process for designing these spaces?
The café was designed to promote a sense of wellbeing and balance – the kind of place where you feel instantly welcome and can unwind and enjoy yourself with friends or family, and that also promotes mindfulness and focus and creativity. Sustainability is literally ‘built’ into the café! Everything from the handmade tiles, reclaimed concrete, Good and Mojo sustainable bamboo lights and repurposed chairs, to the 100% bamboo toilet paper was carefully thought through to create an atmosphere of effortless sustainability!
What's the hardest or most challenging part of running nue ground?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were faced with so many challenges caused by the changing restrictions. The constant change and uncertainty meant that we continually had to innovate and come up with new ideas and solutions to keep serving our community. We worked hard to look after everyone from our customers to our café staff to the suppliers and small businesses we work with. We’ve seen the hospitality industry suffer off the back of the pandemic, but we were determined to be one of the ones that came out stronger.
On the flip side, what's the most rewarding part?
The relationships we have with our customers. During the pandemic, we set up nue ground General Store to help people access daily essentials and high quality produce, delivering to the homes of customers who were vulnerable or isolating. When we were allowed to serve takeaway coffee again, people had a newfound appreciation for the simple pleasure of a great cup of coffee, and our baristas were reliable friendly faces in a time of social isolation. The feedback we got was amazing, and the stories about how we made a difference in people’s lives were so moving.
Your food looks incredible! How do you come up with your menu?
Our menu is designed to be healthy and well balanced and above all, delicious! We are always coming up with new plant-based options that entice meat-eaters to try vegan dishes, whilst still offering some high quality, ethically sourced meat because we respect that everyone’s needs are different! We work with the very best fresh produce and are mindful about how we use it to maximise its potential and minimise food waste. We are continually seeking new ways to make our ingredients go further with ‘root to stem’ cooking where every part of the ingredient goes to use. This forces our chefs to be creative and gives them a chance to come up with exciting specials that reflect what is in season!
When you’re not working, what are your favourite things to do around London?
Being a personal trainer, I love working out and try to make it my daily routine. As a mum of two, family time is really important. London has some amazing green spaces, and we love to go out on our bikes for a long cycle ride and a picnic! I also love going out to restaurants to experience the best food and hospitality the city has to offer whilst catching up with friends and family.
We love having you as a decent packaging customer! Could you tell us why you made the switch to compostable packaging?
We love using Decent packaging! When I learned about the benefits of using compostable packaging to the environment, it was an obvious choice. We know that compostable packaging requires less carbon to produce, reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and doesn’t produce toxins as it breaks down and that certain
chemicals in plastics can be harmful to human health so it made sense to switch to something that would be better for the planet and better for our customers!
Have you seen a change in the public interest in sustainability since you started?
Yes! It feels like society has undergone a big awakening about the importance of sustainability, and we see consumer demand driving sustainability. It’s not enough to simply call yourself sustainable – you have to demonstrate it with specific actions, and we are always excited when people ask us about our sustainability practices and offer their suggestions about what they want to see from us. We are committed to a more sustainable future and so are our customers!
Make it enjoyable! Our environmentally sustainable practices are sustainable – that is, we can keep them going indefinitely – precisely because they’re enjoyable. Sustainability doesn’t have to entail sacrifice – especially now that there are so many more sustainable options available to us. Finding a reusable coffee cup or water bottle that you love using, tasting the difference in ingredients that have been grown and treated with respect, and getting to know other like-minded people who care about sustainability, are all great examples of how prioritising sustainability can result in greater enjoyment and satisfaction in everyday life.
32 Abbeville Rd, London SW4 9NG, United Kingdom