Here's Episode 2 of Back Story - not available on BBC Sounds and iPlayer but exclusively for The Forest Mag!

In March the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its 93 authors produced a hard-hitting template for governmental action on climate change. They should have come to Forest Gate to see what a young entrepreneurial couple are doing to clean up the planet. Everson from Brazil, and Cecile from France opened Cups & Jars in 2018. In their sights was packaging.

Cups & Jars founders Everson & Cecile

Everson has lived in East London for around seven years so Forest Gate was a natural choice; close to home; minimal travelling and a chance to give back something to the community. The shop is a treasure trove. Anyone who knows it will know that they can fill their own containers from a wide range of dry food – cereals, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, flour – a huge selection. If you drop in ‘containersless', recycled jam jars are on hand. There’s also fresh fruit and vegetables, lovely cheeses and other unusual dairy produce and jars of exotic and Mediterranean spices.

No need to go to Waitrose to buy that unique spice for the tagine you want to make when you can try Cups & Jars.

Then there is the hidden gem – the little back room filled with sustainable cleaning materials for the dishes, the washing machine, the dishwasher and for ourselves, shampoos and soaps. My cleaner comes from France and like many in France uses vinegar as a cleaning agent. Whenever I go there I have to come back with bottles of vinègre menagère. No need to do this any longer. I can just take my container to Cups & Jars for a refill. More space in the luggage for an extra bottle of wine.

Naturally, for the unusual range of goods on offer the suppliers have to be a bit different and trusted. The fruit and vegetables come from a couple of suppliers that are very committed with the quality of the produce landing on people’s tables. Some of their other suppliers provide single specialist items, others are small cooperatives offering a range of goods. It all amounts to a really interesting selection on offer. And I have forgotten the speciality breads, croissants and cakes and the wine. Deliveries arrive every day. In fact two supplies arrived while I was gathering all this information.


But some of the recycling is hidden in full view. When Everson and Cecile took over the shop it needed kitting-out as a food store. Just look around. The shelving started its life as scaffolding boards turned into what it is now by hours and hours of sanding down. Other items such as the counter are some of the pre-loved pieces that found its new home in the shop. Look up at the lights in the shop. They were colanders and a lovely touch, the spoons and forks strung out on a thin rope on the door are the door bell. Just listen every time you enter the shop. In the back room (which I will be coming to) are some lovely decorative doors, a gift from someone when the shop opened.

Cups & Jars is not just a shop. In the back room is a small coffee shop serving a range of coffees, teas and drinks. The lunch menu of sandwiches, filled croissants cakes and a daily soup are very tempting.

But as I found out when I was there this is not just a coffee shop but an informal community hub.

Whether it is because the space is small or whether Forest Gate people just like to talk to each other, I soon found I was chatting to the lady on the next table, like me a Forest Gate resident. And on another table two people were speaking French. This put back any future dementia by a year or two because I could understand almost all they were saying. Yes it is probably rude to listen to other people chatting but it gave my brain a welcome workout. Talking to Everson about this afterwards he told me that this was a one-to-one french conversation ‘class' being held over an excellent cup of coffee. This was when he also told me about Saturday mornings at Cups & Jars. Forest Gaters just turn up and again over coffees, teas and soft drinks, just talk; about local things, politics, the things they have just done or about to do. A spontaneous discussion leading to just wherever.

This is really a small but vibrant community hub on our doorstep. I enjoyed my chat with Everson and feel that he and Cecile are getting things just right. They are helping the planet, combatting the scourge of packaging and plastic, and providing a warm environment conducive to friendship. On my way home I met a neighbour with her two children and mother-in-law and where were they going? To Cups & Jars. ‘We love it’ she said.

You can click & collect on the Cups & Jars website here and for further info follow @cupsandjars_e7