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Tag Drinks interview by news reporter Eleanor Clavin

Launching in early 2020, TAG Drinks in Eastcote has had a huge impact on the Eastcote community. Despite all obstacles, including launching during a pandemic, TAG has gone from strength to strength, winning the hearts of the local community with delicious drinks and various initiatives including free school meals for those in need.

I spoke to Hovig Yardim, owner of TAG to find out about where the business came from and what makes TAG so special.

What's your origin story? Why did you want to start a business?

Growing up I wanted to be a doctor. I went to University College London with the idea of going into medicine but didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped. I left university and started a band (one of my passions is drumming), which was fairly successful. I was running the majority of the business side of things in the band, and after almost three years with them, I realised I was quite good at it. 

I decided to start my own project (a cafe in Covent Garden) which was within one of the West End Theatres. As a business we were very limited to what we could do (as the space wasn't solely ours) and it wasn't without its difficulties - Central London is very impersonal and there isn't time to have a chat and ask how customers are doing - it took a lot of the magic out of it. After just under three years I decided to call it a day, re-evaluate what worked and what didn't, and went to work at various stores with the country's biggest coffee shop chain to learn how they did things. Fast forward another two years, combine all the experience working in my own cafe and the coffee shop chain, add to it my passion and love for science, food, and great service, sprinkle in some lessons learned along the way, and TAG was born!

Why Eastcote?

From my experiences in central London, I wanted something a lot more personal, a lot more friendly, and somewhere we could put forward our best asset of friendliness and great service - working in chain shops in the suburbs it was clear that this was the way forward. I have lived in Eastcote for 23 years, went to primary and secondary school here, and love the community spirit there is in the Hillingdon Borough - it made complete sense to me to do it here and I am so incredibly happy I did.

Where did the name TAG come from?

I was incredibly fortunate to work with a leading branding agency who were fantastic in taking my root idea from concept and developing moodboards and feelings into something original, memorable, and unique - giving birth to the TAG brand we have now! When naming my last business based in Covent Garden, I went with an authentic, Armenian (my ethnicity) name to match what some of the coffee shop chains were doing - Nero and Costa have Italian sounding roots which adds to the brand and experience; I wanted to bring this into the last place I had. It didn't work; the name was too new, too difficult to remember, and didn't catch on. Learning from this, I went with the complete opposite for TAG - something short, an already existing word in the English language, and one that is unrelated to anything we offer, creating a brand that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

What do you specialise in?

Aside from award-winning coffee and handmade sandwiches, we bake cookies, muffins, and sausage rolls in house each morning; our speciality however is in tea. We have two core ranges of tea at TAG: our loose leaf range, and our patented and innovative TAG Tea Latte.

Loose Leaf Tea: We currently have 15 varieties of loose lea, ranging from a Mango Sencha Green tea from Japan, to our own blend of TAG Breakfast Tea, specifically designed and blended for us. Loose leaf tea is always going to be better in quality and therefore flavour than teabags (we won't even go there!) and we serve these in our funky teapots that sit on top of your glass - teapots always give the leaves the best possible chance to release their flavour as there is space for the leaves to move and expand in the water. Our range covers everything from the luxuriously gentle and delicate Jasmine Dragon Pearls tea to the robust and fruity Earl Grey.

TAG Tea Latte: This is the speciality that sets us apart from everywhere else in the country - it's patent-protected after all! We take our own blend of tea, grind and process it through a coffee machine to extract a strong shot of tea (think espresso but made with tea) which we then turn into a latte by adding velvety-textured milk. This is available in a range of core flavours from Gingerbread and Hazelnut, to Coconut, and Salted Caramel, and we even do seasonal specials like the Biscoff TAG Tea Latte - we tried this particular flavour at Christmas and we still get asked for it now at the end of February!

What are you most passionate about?

For me it comes down to quality - whether that's product or service, quality is paramount. A customer experience in a food & drink establishment is made up of various factors, and if any of them fall short, it ruins the overall experience. Branding plays a part, the space plays a part, and of course packaging, music, seating and lighting etc. All of that is irrelevant however if the product doesn't exceed expectations, and if the service isn't top-notch then forget about having customers coming back. We recruit with a different approach to chain businesses in the same industry - we don't care about experience, age, or qualifications; we can train the food and drinks side of things and control the quality on that side - great customer service and friendliness comes from within, and it can be coaxed out in the right environment, but if you don't have the right attitude within you, no amount of training or encouraging will change that. Our team is dedicated to providing the best service on the high street - we think of ourselves more as friends to our customers than baristas; we just happen to be really good at making food and drinks too!

Visit TAG Drinks on Field End Road, Eastcote (where Barclays Bank stood) and follow them on social media @tagdrinks for news and updates
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