Drinks with Hebe & Talula White

Drinks with Hebe & Talula White

Where

Le Pain Quotidien, Notting Hill

What we drank

Talula: Flat White £3.10
Hebe: Green Tea £3

Talula has a brilliantly creative mind. With no previous experience in the drinks industry, she’s brought out a range of products that can change the way we drink. Her innovation is leading the way in the future of mixers.

Tell us a bit about yourself…


My name’s Talula. I’m the founder of Sekforde Mixers, which (to use the phrase I always sound like a dick saying) is a world first.  It originally started as a hobby because of my desire for a new way to drink whisky, but it is now my full-time job. It’s been an exciting and interesting journey that I never initially expected to be on.  Sekforde are the first mixers created around specific spirits. So there’s one created to pair with Whisky and Bourbon, one for Rum, one for Gin and Vodka (a quinine free tonic alternative) and one for Tequila/Mezcal. 

What does your typical week look like?


It’s a really fascinating mosaic, running your own business. So there’s the logistics, the invoicing. There’s that aspect of it which is sort of desk work. Then the forward thinking and planning. Looking at the trends we are seeing, how a menu listing is working, all that kind of stuff. Just understanding the landscape, understanding what’s working really well for the brand and thinking about how we support that.
Then there’s a lot of meetings with people, which is always fun. There’s a lot of drinks development, meeting with spirit brands or going to bars and talking about what they’ve created with Sekforde.
And then there is the lugging (I need to invest in a wheely bag). I have just been carrying bags of clanking bottles, getting looks like I’ve been drinking wine at 10 am.
There’s a bit of everything, but it is good fun. The weeks just fly past because it’s very hard to predict.

How long have you been working in the drinks industry?


2 years ago I left my old job, so I was doing something else for 9 years and then Sekforde started in my kitchen on Sekforde street (which is where the name came from). It just became something where I felt like if I don’t try this or if I don’t take this seriously I will regret it when I’m older.
So I was trying to run two things at once and I did that for as long as I could. Then it just reached the point where I needed to leave and focus on Sekforde entirely.
From there it was six months of carrying around prototypes in my rucksack. Appearing in bars saying would you like to try this? Luckily I met a lot of nice people that way.

What inspired you to create Sekforde?


I’d grown up drinking Whisky. I love Bourbon. I love Rye. That was the first spirit I created an affinity for and relatively young because I spent a lot of time in the States with my mum’s family. My uncles are very into their Rye and Bourbon, so I kind of developed a love for that.
When I got a bit older I was at the pub with my friends, or in the park, they were either having a fancy Gin & tonic or wine or beer. I was always like, I really want Whisky, but drinking neat Whisky in the middle of the summer I’d get a lot drunker and it wasn’t as refreshing. I hated putting it with coke and ginger. It tasted fine, but I couldn’t taste what I was drinking. I then thought, well what if I created a mixer from scratch for Whisky? So with a little trusty soda stream and a lot of (very primitive) making extracts in the kitchen, I developed a Whisky one with Sicilian orange, rosemary, gentian and a tiny bit of mint. So yeah, it came from there and people asking could I make a similar one for Rum, or saying I don’t like tonic and I feel left out of the Gin thing, can you make me something different for that.

What’s your favourite part of working in the drinks industry?


I think it’s just an incredible collection of people, with really interesting backgrounds, really interesting interests, really diverse talents. And kind. People are really kind and supportive. I love that you never know who you’re going to meet.

And what’s your least favourite part?


I think there is quite a stretch in terms of…I usually start the day at 7 am to be doing emails and stuff and then obviously there are quite a few times where things will go on until 1/ 2 am. It’s pretty full on from a time keeping/ hours point of view.

Do you think being a woman has affected your career in this industry?


Truthfully, no. I think I’ve been very lucky in terms of men have always been incredibly supportive, helpful, straight up and honest. There were one or two comments earlier on from people saying you know if you wore short skirts and make up it will make things easier. But I never did that, guys never behaved like that. So no, I don’t think it has.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve had since being in the drinks industry?


My lack of knowledge about wholesalers was certainly an unexpected kink. I was like, ah-ha, you mean I can’t just sell it directly to people? So there was that because that involved building up a certain amount of demand. You have to build up a level of understanding. That was not something I anticipated having to do. It’s why I’m always happy to talk to anyone who’s wanting to get into this industry or start a brand.
And then I think one of the biggest challenges, but also the biggest strength, is that we’re a world first. So basically it requires a certain amount of education. There’s no short cut, as in, it’s like X, but more premium. This is a new thing, so that’s probably the biggest challenge.

What trends have you been seeing lately/ what do you think is coming up?


This is a really interesting one because I hear people comment on this quite a lot and I have a lot of views about this. The ones that I’ve heard quite consistently are no and low, which is because I’ve had quite a few bars asking me to drop in stock for no and low menus because (Sekforde) is delicate, it’s natural, it works well with vermouth, it works really well with alcohol free spirits like Seedlip.
Mezcal. Which is really exciting, because I love it. There’s so much to discover there so fingers crossed that does come through. Waitrose is now stocking a Mezcal, so I think there is that growing desire to move into that.
Those are the two that I hear quite consistently.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants your job, what would it be?


Just call me. I say that because I wish I’d asked endless questions in the beginning. Don’t be afraid of things and people’s responses. You cannot just learn things magically. That’s why I’m so keen to make sure people know that if they want any advice about starting a company or about soft drinks to message me (my email is on the Sekforde website).

How can we support you?


Well, if anyone would like to have a meeting to try Sekforde, they should definitely drop me a line. I’d really appreciate anyone’s support on it. Drinking Sekforde, putting it on menus, picking it up from Waitrose, all of it is incredibly helpful and massively appreciated.

What’s your favourite drink at the moment?


I do love a Whisky with Sekforde and I’m also drinking a lot of manhattans at the moment. I like them with Rye, rather than bourbon and I like mine sweet with a spicy vermouth and a cherry. 

If you know a lady in the drinks industry that you would like to see interviewed, pop an email to drinkswithhebe@mail.com.
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