Selling drinks on a 100-year-old bike to thirsty Londoners to winning this year’s Best Drinks Producer title at the BBC Awards, The Food Assembly talk to Britain’s alternative soda-makers Square Root.
It’s hard to believe that in the space of two years Square Root has progressed from a market stall to a railway arch in the heart of London’s Hackney, producing 6000 bottles of soda each week.
“Before that it would be the two of us in the kitchen at an unearthly hour on a Saturday morning, squeezing lemons and pressing knobbly ginger roots”, says Robyn, who runs Square Root with her partner Ed, “Nowadays, we’re still squeezing those lemons, but instead of juicing from our one bedroom flat, we’re in our very own bricks and mortar soda works in a Hackney railway arch.”
The Food Assembly producer now have a whole team of staff to juice alongside them. But they don’t plan on expanding to “behemothic supermarket chains or any retailer where the focus is not on supplying people with the best tasting and most responsibly crafted products.”
Square Root is a grassroots business committed to traditional small batch soda making – no shortcuts, cheats or unnatural additives. For now, they’re happy to have a customer base of “beautiful, thoughtful restaurants”, bars and shops.
Robyn and Ed are obsessed with fruit, from the lowly lemon to the sublime soursop ( a spiny, green tropical fruit), they love it all – if it’s a fruit, you can bet they’re planning to make it into soda.
“A week doesn’t go by where Ed doesn’t return from his morning market trip triumphantly bearing some novel rare produce – the more bizarrely coloured, obscurely shaped, hairy or tentacled, the better,” explains Robyn.
“We also love putting to use produce which is considered ugly and unwanted because it doesn’t conform to archaic rules about idealised shapes and colours. Bring on the misshapen rhubarb stalks and wonky cucumbers!”
Local food producers are vital in the creation of Square Root sodas. Their elderflower soda uses flowers grown and handpicked in London’s Hackney by Jon the Poacher.
Their Cascara Club Soda uses another waste product – the husk of the coffee bean berry, which is typically discarded – and blends it with hibiscus and lime to make a beautifully invigorating and naturally caffeinated drink.
Square Root’s flavours include Raspberry Lemonade to Cucumber, and the recent exciting news is that the Food Assembly producer started bottling their ‘Experimental Soda’ range, which will be found exclusively at the new brunch venue The Soda Works, which will be open mid summer.
“The Soda Works is a place where we can indulge all of our eccentric fruity dreams, so you’ll find all the quirky one-off flavours that we want to share with you in small, lovingly made, batches,” explains Robyn.
They’ll also do a refill bottle system so you can come back again and again for a fill of something different.
As word spreads about the Square Root mission, Ed and Robyn’s sodas flow further out of London into other cities and far-flung parts of the UK.
What keeps the fizz going?
“It’s that feeling of community which keeps us going on the nights where we’re wearily hauling crates of fruit and pallets of glass at 11pm – we’re all in it together!”
Buy Square Root’s soda pops through your local Food Assembly.
Find yours here.